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498.

Touch the Ground Paul Q-Pek


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TOUCH THE GROUND (1996) Paul Q-Pek One of the great crimes of 1996 or any other year for that matter was the fact that this amazing record went relatively unnoticed in Christian Music circles. Paul, after leaving his ground breaking band, One Bad Pig, went in a whole new direction musically and one that should have afforded him great success. As the initial release for Dez Dickersons (Prince) Absolute Records, Touch the Ground is filled with Peter Gabriel like ethereal whirlwinds of sheer sonic pleasure. It was right smack in the middle of modern music at the time and was easily safe enough even for Christian radio. Pauls gravelly voice is a pure delight and the content is spot on both musically and lyrically. This album is still in my Zune and the title track and cover of Howard Jones Things Can Only Get Better have worn extremely well with age. Was it the album cover of a shaved head Paul in a casual suit that threw people? I understand his One Bad Pig following not coming for the ride, but really! Anyway this is a serious AYSO and its not too hard to find if you look.

497. Stryper Yellow and Black Attack


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YELLOW AND BLACK ATTACK (1984) Stryper Another album that most likely would have ranked much higher if not for the relative brevity with the original release containing just 6 songs. The phrase, the one that started it all gets thrown around a lot, but this one may actually qualify. Not only did Stryper smash down the Church doors in regards to heavy metal and glam rock, but they also made the world stand up and take notice. Decades later and mainstream music fans have forgotten about POD, Jars of Clay and even Switchfoot, but no one forgot Stryper. Ridiculously tight black and yellow spandex, more mascara then my girlfriend at the time even owned and the damned prettiest hair this side of Farrah Fawcett, the Yellow and Black attack made huge strides on both sides of the musical chasm by signing with famous indie metal label, Enigma, and eventually gaining Christian Bookstore distribution through the Benson Company. This is the first of three albums to make the list, but it truly is the one that started it all.

495. Shake Me to Wake Me Steve Camp


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SHAKE ME TO WAKE ME (1985) Steve Camp Christian Musics angry young man has had a career that has spanned several decades with his first solo release coming out in 1978 and continues to make music today. He is also an author, speaker, theologian and critic. Steve has an opinion and is not afraid to share it. He is smart, caustic, sarcastic, funny and brilliant. During the early to mid-1980s Steve hit his stride with several fantastic releases, a couple which will be featured in this list. The first to make the list is 1985s Shake Me to Wake Me. Steve was able to break some barriers of Christian radio at the time both musically and lyrically. The keyboard driven pop rock pushed some edges for mainstream Christian radio, but it was the prophetic, angry, confrontational and rebuking lyrics that were out of place on CCM formats. This may have eventually cost him fans and industry support, especially a decade later when he

came out with a very strong indictment against the CCM industry following the pattern set forth by Martin Luthers 95 Theses.

494. The Chosen Ones PID


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THE CHOSEN ONES (1991) P.I.D. Preachas In Disguise. Long before the current crop of rappers even knew what a mic, beatbox or sampling was there two (and later three) guys were the first truly legit rap act in CCM. Michael Peace and Stephen Wiley were predecessors, but there was nothing like PID when they hit scene. Legit. Aggressive. Real. The line-up was primarily Fred Lynch and Barry G. Later Lynchs brother would join the group for what are considered their best including The Chosen Ones. They soon thereafter disbanded when the brother (K-mack) joined the Nation of Islam. Lynch and G. would also record several solo projects and stay in Christian ministry. Fitting nicely into a Run-DMC style, this album fused some rock, hip hop, rap and sampling into a great introduction into the world of Christian Rap.

493. Back to the Street Petra


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BACK TO THE STREET(1986) Petra This is the first release after the departure of long time lead vocalist Greg X Volz and many fans wondered what would become of their beloved corporate rock heroes. Back to the Street answered the question with a vengeance and remains one of the two best John Schlitt lead projects. After a brief and successful foray into technology driven rock with Beat the System, Petra returned to their more Foreigner tinged leanings. The Elefante brothers (John and Dino) debuted at the production helm and the vocal and guitar qualities of earlier releases returned. BTTS contains some Bob Hartmans finest songwriting. The band would receive one of their several Grammy Award nominations and fans accepted new vocalist John Schlitt (formerly of mainstream band Head East). They would own Christian radio with the final song, Thankful Heart.

480. Audio Visions Kansas


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AUDIO-VISIONS (1980) Kansas

The last album to feature the original (at least recorded version) members of Kansas. It is also the first post-conversion Kansas album for band leader Kerry Livgren. Lead singer Steve Walsh would soon leave the band to pursue solo ventures. It was also considered that his departure was influenced by the increasing Christian content presented by Livgren and supported by two other recent Christian converts in the band. The album shows a disjointed vision with Livgrens distinctly Christian content and Walshs decidedly worldly lyrical influence. But Walsh was a very special vocalist and hearing him sing Livgrens work is compelling. He also stayed around long enough to work on the demos for the follow-up album (Vinyl Confessions) and I do have copies of those demos. AV has all the trademarks and trappings of Kansas with progressive, classically influenced rock epics filled with progressive time signature changes, creative arrangements, violin interludes and thought provoking lyrical images. It also contains what could be Livgrens finest Christian song on a Kansas project, No One Together. Clocking in at nearly seven minutes this song should rank along with Portrait (He Knew), Song For America, Journey from Mariabronn and Magnum Opus in Kansas epic lore.

478. Light Maneuvers Servant


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LIGHT MANEUVERS (1984) Servant When I recollect about the best and most memorable concerts experiences in Christian music the several Servant concerts ranked amongst the best. They were first Christian band I recall buying into the show aspect of a concert with a large light production, pyrotechnics, lasers and and on stage theatrics. The shows always seemed bigger then the band. The irony is, of course, that everyone that met the members of the band discovered a humble, giving and entirely ministry focused group. The name Servant was never more apropos. Formed from a Christian Community (see Commune) the band never appeared to lose the focal point of evangelical ministry and social justice.

After two record on Tunesmith and two on a small independent label distributed through the Benson Company, it appeared that Servant was primed for the big time with a signing on to mega-label Myrrh. The album is, in some ways, Servants most cohesive record both musically and lyrically. Great cover artwork and three killer radio friendly songs that should have hoisted Servant to the Christian mainstream levels occupied by White Heart and Petra. Ironically just a few years previous it was Petra that opened for Servant before their huge Never Say Die album. Light Maneuvers ended up being a very big hit and things appeared to breaking the bands way in CCM. But this would mark the last album for co-lead vocalist Bob Hardy and the new musical direction of the follow up would end up bringing the band to a close.

462. I Want to Be a Clone Steve Taylor


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I WANT TO BE A CLONE (1983) Steve Taylor How important, creative and great is Steve Taylor? When you discount live, greatest hits and maxi-single projects he released only four full length projects, on EP and a band effort under the name Chagall Guevara, and all of them are included on this list! The first to be included was the first release, the EP, I Want to Be a Clone. Clocking in at UNDER 20 minutes the only thing that kept this project from being placed in the Top 250 is the time. 6 songs. 6 great and unforgettable songs. IWTBAC introduced an unsuspecting CCM buying public to something Im not sure they ever recovered from. Sure, there were plenty of new artists bring new wave and punk stylings into the world of CCM but no one arrived with such ferocity and no one was as quite misunderstood. I was a Senior in High School when the album came out and my Youth Pastor was part of the Christian Rock is Evil and Steve was one of his favorite targets. Not only did he not approve of the music he struggled with the satire and sarcasm. He so misunderstood Taylor that he complained that some young kids might actually think its a bad thing if all Christians looked and acted exactly the same!

There were no sacred cow to fat to be skewered. Church hopping, legalism, abortion, politics and the gay lifestyle were all victims of Taylors piercing tongueand that was just on side one! Musically the album was very Oingo Boingo and Devo sounding with a touch of the Cars and David Bowie. Taylors delivery was harsh and caustic and every kid under 25 that walked into my store walked out with a copy. IWTBAC may or may not actually have the first instance of Christian Rap, but my guess is Taylor would never want to claim his Bad Rap should be considered a landmark recording of anything. It was actually closer to Blondie than Sugar Hill. A personal favorite than never loses its punch is the EPs final track, Whatcha Gonna Do When Your Number Is Up? Youre so open minded that your brain leaked out Priceless!

466. Surge et Illuminare Idle Lovell (Mike Knott)


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SURGE ET ILLUMINARE (1984) Idle Lovell One of many Mike Knott related projects to find its way onto this list. This one of many attempts by Knott to reach the mainstream market. It also ended up being the first release on Knotts Blond Vinyl record label. The ultimate irony was that it was also the only Blond Vinyl release to be released on vinyl. All six songs are very, very strong tunes with a darker, more dance-like goth feel. Great for fans of The Cure, The Church, Echo and the Bunnymen and the Psychedelic Furs. Two songs would later show up on Lifesaver and LSU projects. In fact, the feel and sound would play a heavy role in the future LSU incarnation with its darker edge. LSU and Lifesaver guitarist Brian Doidge would be a key band member for the live shows.

456. Mad at the World Mad At The World

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MAD AT THE WORLD (1987) Mad At The World The story goes that while Roger Rose, the taller and older Rose brother that makes up the band, Mad At The World, was working as a mailman he dropped of a demo tape int he mailbox of Jimmy Kempner, owner of Frontline Records. The tape was passed along and the Rose brothers were eventaully signed by Frontling and in 1987 they released their first of several very successful projects, the self-titled Mad at the World. Completely programmed and synthesized techno music with aggressive 80s dance beats and a very European vocal styling, the very well produced debut became an instant hit in many Christian circles. Mainstream music was filled with bands like Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears but Christian musics edgier sounds were usually punk bands of long hair glam rockers like Stryper and Shout. MATW filled a huge void as Christian dance clubs were also starting to spring up and techno music was very limited. The lyrics were very Christian thematically but dealt with the darker side of life and some people initially struggled with the more dark sounding content. Kids, though, flocked to the album and their reputation spread quickly, especially in Southern California. They were invited to play a New Years Eve event at Knotts Berry Farm, a popular theme park in Orange County. The set consisted primarily of older brother Roger on guitar and keyboards and 15 year old Randy on a bizarre looking electronic percussive contraption. The cool factor was high and their outside show drew huge crowds. Styles would change to darker and heavier rock and eventually to a more Beatlesque pop sound, but it is the first two albums that the band is most remembered for.

440. Grace Shaker LSU


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GRACE SHAKER (1994) L.S.U. (Lifesavers Underground) There is always this running debate as to which LSU record is the best. The answer may just beall of them! Each one is consistently phenomenal and unique unto itself. Creative, compelling, painful and praiseworthy. Mike Knott shows up again on this last as he will many more time simply because he remains one of only a handful of artists in CCM where the label of genius is not some false flattery, but might possibly be an understatement. Out of the ashes of the Lifesavers (not really, I just think Mike likes to screw with people) came LSU, and with Grace Shaker we are given a glimpse into what was to become the Aunt Bettys. Mellower and, at times, more introspective and personal than other band projects, Grace Shaker contains some of Knotts finest moments. The albums opening acoustic opener, Double, deals with the average Christians struggle with everyday life, including marriage and parenting. I Take the Blame remains a personal favorite and its beautifully haunting acoustic melody and distant sounding vocals and prominent piano. The album contains more experimenting with percussive rhythms then previous projects and makes it stand out as so completely different then other projects from Knott. I do want to add that Mike Knott may be the most under-appreciated guitar player in Christian alternative music. Those who have seen him live and who pay close attention to work on his projects really do recognize this fact, thoughon this album much of the credit goes to the outrageous guitar playing of Andrew Carter. If you do not own this album, this is more than just an AYSO. In fact, I have a friend that determines the quality of the individual based on whether they own this album or not. That may not be fair, but I do see his point.

441. My Own Prison Creed

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MY OWN PRISON (1997) Creed If nothing else Creeds debut release My Own Prison may have the greatest success to cost ratio in the history of music. The album cost about $6,000 to produce and sold over 6,000,000 copies! Thats right, 6 million copies of an album produced by a band that music snobs and rockers claimed they never liked. There are a lot liars in the world. Cmon, lets be honest. We all bought this album and loved it when it came out. We were ahead of the curve and discovered the band early and wore the damn thing out. The first time we heard Torn we knew we had to figure out who the band was and got to a Tower records before the song faded out. Yeah, Scott Stapp sounds like hes gargling razor blades while channeling Eddie Vedder and he plain sucks as a solo artists. Who cares? For at least two amazing records the band kicked us on the side of the head with heavy and ridiculously melodic hard rock. At the same time Stapp wrote some very stunning spiritually laced angst with a troubled soul, especially the title track. And when the band meshed in unison and soared like in songs like one there was no better band in the owrldat least for 5 minutes and 2 seconds. I learned a long time ago to get past my snobbish friends musical purity and artistic snobbery to enjoy a seriously good musical ass kicking like all while experiencing the emotional struggle of Stapps inner turmoil. I still like it!

447. Decapitated Society Jan Krist


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DECAPITATED SOCIETY (1992) Jan Krist Simply put, Kan Krist is one of the finest female singer-songwriters to ever grace the Christian Music world. Seldom accompanied by anything more than her acoustic guitar and stark and simple production, Decapitated Society is all about the song. The title track discusses the depths to which society has fallen in which we appear to have to decapitate our mind from our heart and soul. Krist easily could and should share the stage at Lilith Fair with the best singer-songwriters available today. Fans of the Indigo Girls, Sarah McLachlan and Suzanne Vega will find something on this project to lay hold of. Even Billboard Magazine recognized the brilliance of this debut and listed it amongst the best of the year. Along with the title track other highlights include Someone, Honey Moon and Love Is Not to Blame. Her follow up release on Storyville records is also a worthy contender and both should be considered very strong AYSO.

431. Saved Bob Dylan


October 14, 2010low5point5 comments

SAVED (1980)

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan received quite a bit of criticism for this album. Though its predecessor, Slow Train Coming, also contained very obvious Christian content, Saved took it to a different level as something more akin to a straight Gospel album than his fans and critics could handle. They didnt seem to mind his dabbling into Jesus on Slow Train, but the very straight forward, conservative and evangelical content here was too much for the music elites. And that is real shame. On Saved Dylan delivers a Gospel tour de force of blues and rock thats part church, part revival meeting and part confessional. There are rollicking and rocking foot stompers (Saved, Solid Rock, Are You Ready) and stunning ballads (Covenant Woman, What Can I Do For You). But it is in the more direct Gospel themes that Dylan shines on this album. Pressing On starts slow and continues to build into an inspirational anthem with complete black Gospel backing vocals. In the Garden, a song Dylan still regularly performs, could have been found in a Black Gospel hymnal. It simply just gets bigger and stronger as it goes along. And its also one these two songs that Dylans voice works best. Three Dylan projects make this list and despite not being the strongest of the three it continues to be one of the my personal favorites for the sheer joy it produces.

434. Stone Sometime Sunday


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STONE (1994) Sometime Sunday Over the years I met Mikee Bridges of Sometime Sunday on several occasions. I always found him to be quite nice, often sarcastically funny and genuinely thoughtful. But man, as part of Sometime Sunday he always sounded so pissed off! He may have been Christian musics grungiest singer with raw emotion, authentic angst and sheer guttural passion. He seemed to match the music that was also stark, raw and forceful. This debut struck just as Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana and Pearl Jam were reaching a zenith of sorts. Rather than

following a trend, Sometime Sunday was part of the trend. Their two albums were well received tough not the real hits they should have been. Christian Bookstores thought DC Talk was grunge, so what does that tell you? The not so hidden bonus track Home is a great acoustic finale that sounds like it was recorded on a street corner on someones cassette deck. Yet somehow it works to bring the messageuhhome.

439. Anger Into Passion Common Bond


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ANGER INTO PASSION (1987) Common Bond One of the many amazing bands to come out of the Orange County Christian Music scene and the spearheading label, Frontline Records, Common Bond was unfortunately much overlooked. They released two nationally recognized releases and the much sough after White Album, and independent project I still own. A trio that consisted of three amazing musicians; Kenny Samuels (bass, vocals), Steve Durham (guitars) and Chuck Cummings (drums). Cummings was later replaced by the amazing Terl Bryant. The first project Heaven is Calling hinted at what was to follow in Anger Into Passion, an amazing record that would unfortunately be the last. The style is difficult to pin down with Samuels higher pitched voice that is reminiscent of Ian Cussick, Geddy Lee (without all the annoying whining) and former Love Song drummer John Mehler. Musically it falls into the world of later Police and the more progressive and smart alternative music of the late 80s. Lyrically very smart as creative. Musically astute. There is a rare combination. One special note of interest, the album contains a very cool cover Daniel Amos Wall of Doubt. Another AYSO here!

410. Mylon Mylon LeFevre


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MYLON (1970) Mylon LeFevre The youngest of the Southern Gospel family group, the Singing LeFevres, Mylon appeared to end up the black sheep as well, leaving the safe sounds of Southern Gospel for groove oriented Southern Rock and funky blues. As a 17 year old in the army he wrote his first song, Without You. He would perform that song one night with his famous and unbeknown to him, Elvis Presley was in the audience and would later ask to record the song. Within just a few years the song would be covered by over 100 artists. After leaving the famed Stamps Quartet he went out on his own and signed with Atlantic Records to record his first rock and roll record after a not so successful Southern Gospel solo release. But he never escaped his Gospel roots, at least lyrically, as the opening traditional Gospel song, Gospel Ship starts the record off. The whole record maintains Christian themes but with a decidedly more rock flair to the music. Fans of Eric Clapton, the Allman Brothers, Fleetwod Mac and Lynard Skynard will probably find something here to like. Southern Rock with a distinct blues influence is the foundation for a great collection of rock n roll. Many consider Mylon to be the first real Christian rock album. Other, independent and garage bands with earlier releases disagree, but there are few that can attest to a major distribution deal and making the universal impact this album did. Mylon would continue to make Gospel records on secular labels throughout the 1970s before forming the band Broken heart at which time he signed to a Christian label.

411. Wide-Eyed Wonder The Choir


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WIDE-EYED WONDER (1989) The Choir From a purely poetic perspective, there is no finer lyricist in Christian Music, and possibly in music in general than the Choris Steve Hindalong. Talk to great songwriters like Terry Scott Taylor and Michael Roe and just see how quickly Steves name comes up. Wide-Eyed Wonder is the most successful Choir album to date and received the most promotion, tour support, media response and radio airplay. It was also the album that new bassist, Robin Spurs appeared. She is an amazing musician and may be the only member of the band to have a song named after them, Robin Had a Dream. But the success may also have had to do with this was easily the happiest Choir album to date, and possibly ever. The previous album, Chase the Kangaroo, was a much darker and often misunderstood project. Songs like Children in Time, Sad Face and Clouds all bore a darker and contemplative stamp. Guitarists/vocalist Derri Daugherty matched Hindalongs more somber lyrics with equally somber music. Much was due to financial struggled and a miscarriage that was very discouraging and emotionally painful But here we have one year later a band focused on new life, Gods grace and, dare I day, pure joy. The Hindalongs had their first child after two miscarriages and their record company seemed significantly more focused on making them a major name in the industry. So the album is filled with song about fatherhood and family life. There is even a wonderful cover of George Harrisons, Behind That Locked Door. The title track is an acoustic gem that may still be the most memorable melody the band ever recorded. This song almost always brings a tear of joy to the reviewer as I look into the eyes of my own three daughters and recognize exactly what Hindalong was writing about. A few other note sof interest. Mark Heard produced a few of the songs on the album. And the final cut (Car cont) may be the funniest thing The Choir has ever done!

408. So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt Keith Green


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SO YOU WANNA GO BACK TO EGYPT (1980) Keith Green After setting the CCM work on fire with two of the most successful records in Christian music for the time, Keith Green left it all behind and started a ministry in which he would give the album to anyone for any price. Whatever anyone could afford or was willing to pay for it. The first of those albums was his third project overall, So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt. Within a year they had shipped out over 200,000 copies, giving away about 25% at no charge. This album was immensely impactful and considered by CCM Magazine as one of their Top 100 albums of all time. It contains some of Greens most intense and memorable songs. The title track reveals the humorous side to Green that many never got to see but that so many who knew him would attest to. At least four songs from the album have gone on to be considered classic tracks with two finding their way into many modern hymnals. I Pledge My Head to Heaven became a regular at concert before his untimely death a few years later. I Want to Be More Like Jesus became a radio favorite and remains a favorite. Two other songs that must be discussed. The first is O Lord, Youre Beautiful, a song that has been covered countless times and may rank as one of the greatest worship songs of all time and should be considered among the great modern hymns of the faith. This confessional song or praise is both stunning and sobering. The final song of note is the albums closer, Grace By Which I Stand. I have spoken with many fans and those that worked with Green over the years before his death and they all seem to come back to this song as possibly Greens finest songwriting in action. Anyone who knows the Lord in a real cannot escape the beautiful pain encapsulated in these 4 minutes. It is truly a powerful and lasting song and I believe contains Greens finest vocals.

384. Atomic Arena Barren Cross


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ATOMIC ARENA (1988) Barren Cross Though they never received the national and secular exposure that their friends and short time labelmates Stryper received, Barren Cross nonetheless remains of the true iconic heavy metal bands in Christian Music. The band was championed (and produced) by Dino Elefante (brother of Kansas John Elefante). Stylistically much hard than Stryper, the Judas Priest influenced Barren Cross carved a niche that few other bands were willing to approach. After releasing the EP Believe (in cool blue and white vinyl) and the full length Rock the King, which was simply the EP remixed with a few new song added, the band unleashed Atomic Arena which was light years ahead of where they just a year previous. Lyrics broach subjects more controversial and mature than Stypers spiritual warfare and evangelistic themes whiel avoiding the darker themes of other contemporaries. Rather the band dealt with issues like suicide, abortion, false religions and even doctrinal issues. Only Tourniquet would rival Barren Cross in dealing with more mature subject matters. The band rocked and rocked hard and, as a result, broke down many of the barriers for the bands that would follow. Those bands are indebted to the road Barren Cross paved for them

377. Rocket and a Bomb Michael Knott


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ROCKET AND A BOMB (1994) Michael Knott Another of the several Michael Knott created projects to be included on this list, Rocket and a Bomb is, in some ways, the most commercial sounding solo project of Knotts vast catalog. The title track would end up appearing two years later on the secular released Aunt Bettys project with a distinctly different finish to the song, a topic that will be addressed in a future review. The album kicks off with the impressive Jan the Weatherman, a song that should have been released to mainstream College radio as it contains one of Knotts best hooks. Jail is either a metaphor for the spiritual prison all of mankind if trapped within and our unsuccessful human attempts to appease the Lord/Judge with our works and ingenuity and our depraved natures inability to do that which is right even when presented clearly in front of usor its about a guy in jail. The beauty of Mike Knott! I know there are several Knottheads that can better distinguish the subtle differences between Mike Knott, Michael Knott, Lifesavers, Lifesavors, LSU, Aunt Bettys, Cush and the other incarnations of this genius. I, on the other hand, prefer to simply accept each and every individual release on its own and see all of them as Mike Knott creations, and for that reason alone, worthy of consideration.

378. Fundamental Elements of Southtown POD (Payable on Death)


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FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENTS OF SOUTHTOWN (1999) After to very successful independently released projects (Snuff the Punk and Brown), San Diegos Payable on Death (POD) made their major label debut (Atlantic Records) with Fundamental Elementals of Southtown. And seemingly immediately the rock world stood up and took notice. Though it did not garner the ultimate success of the following release it did set the tabel for what was to come.

POD is an immensely talented quartet of musicians who would expand beyond the normal limitation of Nu Metal and its rap style vocals over heavy and aggressive metal music. Combining elements of Latin, World, Hip-Hop and Reggae musics into the sound created an original sound that helped set POD apart from their peers both in mainstream and Contemporary Christian Music. The band has always dealt with more street level content than most Christian artists as drugs, depression, loneliness, anger and similar topics were common fair. One example was one of the biggest hits from the album, South Town. MTV jumped on the video as well as the one from the most popular single, Rockin the Party (Off the Hook). The album also contains a very moving, aggressive and heavy cover of U2s Bullet the Blue Sky. The avoids the more subtle U2 approach, with Bonos nearly mumbled vocals, to even their heavier music and just rocks hard and heavy with a ferocious abandon. Though Satellite would surpass Southtown, this album no doubt was what allowed the band to become one of the most successful crossover bands ever.

379. Prints of Darkness Dead Artist Syndrome


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PRINTS OF DARKNESS (1990) Dead Artist Syndrome Dead Artist Syndrome is actually simply Brian Healy and a host of friends that over the year, records and concerts rotated in and out in support of their friend who is easily Christian Music most unheralded alternative artists. Too often pigeon holed as exclusively a goth artists, DAS was an alternative that presented a darker, gloomier and deeper perspective to the world than most in CCM. The label most obviously comes from Healys baritone and at time monotone vocals associated with goth rock. It is not a whole lot different from many Mike Knott (who makes in appearance here) created projects. On Prints Healy is joined by Undercovers Ojo Taylor and Gym Nicholson and it shows. There is an atmospheric sound to the record that is reminiscent of Undercover as well the Psychedelic Furs, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Sisters of Mercy. Healy willfully uses satire, sarcasm

and symbolism throughout and, as a result, often misunderstood. Healy is an ordained minister and infuses much of his lyrics with doctrinal ideologies. I was working for Frontline Records when the second album was released and met Brian on a few occasions as result. I always found him to be incredibly nice, very, very funny and quite intelligent and interesting. These virtues would appear within the content of all of DASs music and is most evident on this debut. The opening track, Christmas is a sly indictment on the commercialization of the Winter Break and the rejection of the truth of the season. Red appears to be inspired by the story of Hosea and the harlotry of Gods people over the generations. I love the albums finale, Reach, which is a very simply expression of worship in a somber and powerful way. It reminds the listener of the need to reach out to God in glory and honor.

361. Sheep in Wolves Clothing Mylon LeFevre & Broken Heart


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SHEEP IN WOLVES CLOTHING (1985) Mylon Lefevre & Broken Heart Though the follow up to this project, Crack the Sky, would receive the awards and be the best selling album in LeFevres career, Sheep in Wolves Clothing would remain the best in his career. After a very negative experience at the end of his secular music career that forced him to give up all royalties, Mylon went back to Church. There he began to sense a call to return to music, but this time with a decidedly more Biblical purpose. He formed a band that would later be called Broken heart and recorded his Christian debut, Brand New Start. That album barely missed making this list and is an AYSO. He soon signed a deal with major Christian label Myrrh and introduced himself to the CCM world in a big way with Sheep in Wolves Clothing. This was all during a time when televangelist were playing records backwards and calling all rock music, especially the music performed by

so called Christian rockers as blasphemous and of the Devil. (Think Footloose with bigger and bluer hair.) Lefevres response was to turn the tables on the popular televangelist saying that these Christian rockers were Wolves in sheeps clothing and made a statement that, in effect, these rockers were simply sheep in wolves clothing, playing for and to an audience that needed the Gospel. The album has a straight Southern rock feel comparable to 38 Special or the Doobie Brothers. Nothing extremely heavy, but well crafter rock with exceptional musicianship. The guitar work, sometime hidden too far back in the mix (unfortunately too common for the time) was exceptional with I Will Rejoice being a perfect example. As must be understood as an album for its time, the electronic drums can get annoying ( I think they were annoying when they were cool) but it was just the sound for the time. The only more embarrassing for the time would be the outfits ugh!Those drums kick off the opening track, a long time LeFevre concert favorite, Crucible of Love. The old southern gospel favorite, Gospel Ship, is covered here in a great, funky blues style. Here again the listener would really to hear the guitars more prominent in the mix. It is also ironic that he recorded this same song on his first secular album. The album also contains the groups most memorable and popular song, Trains Up in the Sky. This song really pushed envelopes on Christian radio as its popularity forced many stations that would never play something like it to add the song top their playlist. This provided many songs to follow a easier path onto radio. The album closes with what I believe is Lefevres finest vocal performance, the power balled, The Warrior. The diversity of quiet, whispering falsetto and monstrous, nearly straining screams shows the mastery of his craft and delivers the message in a way the lyrics alone could not have.

358. Mission of Mercy DeGarmo and Key


October 23, 2010low5point6 comments

MISSION OF MERCY (1983) DeGarmo and Key

Childhood friends Eddie DeGarmo and Dana Key joined forces in their late teens to create music and for three decades were responsible for some of the popular CCM ever recorded. Millions of albums and millions of miles traveled. Even after they had gone their separate way musically their single minded ministry and deep, personal friendship never wavered. I had always hoped for one reunion tour. I, and everyone else, will have to wait for quite some time as earlier this year Dana Key went home to be wioth the Lord. D&K were the first band I ever used my own money to buy. It was their debut album, This Time Thru. I wore out three vinyl copies of their second album, Straight On, Their live album is one of the best live records ever recorded in CCM. And during the Summer after I graduated from High School I was eagerly anticipating their latest release. It was not what I expected. the progressive and blues infused, guitar centered rock and roll had been replaced by a heavy dose of synthesizers and strings. At first I was appalled and saddened that I had lost my band and that my childhood CCM heroes hadAs time went on, though, I not only earned to appreciate the album foir what it was, I actually began to love it. For what it is, it is very, very good. Top notch production, great and memorable arrangements and some very finely crafted pop tunes. And though they will never get the credit for it, they really were early pioneers in the world of modern worship music. Let the Whole World Sing, the monster number hit from the album is a modern worship chorus that should have been a church standard. Mission of Mercy would be the first in what I have dubbed, The Techno Years. Sandwiched between nearly two decades of straight ahead rock were three albums of keyboard driven pop. MoM, Communication and Commander Sozo built a substantially larger fan base for the group and expanded their ministry opportunity. Many years later I came to understand the duo was keeping with the times and would not be defined by any previous release. I learned to live with it. Of those three album the first, Mission of mercy, would be the best even though it featured the least amount of guitar. When it came right down to it, it contained the best songwriting with more than a handful of huge hits. That the Way God Planned It would remain a popular live song for the band while Ready or Not and When Its Over would all top the charts. Oddly enough , for a band noted for their rock style they had always been an amazing ballad band, mainly because of Dana Keys stunning and compassionate vocals. Of all of the songs on the album the most like their earlier music is the ballad All the Losers. This great song ranks up with Addey, Mary and Only the Meek Survive. Its also the strongest song lyrically. A great record that was a record for its time and must be regarded as such. Also, when taken within that framework it is a wonderful record with wonderful songs by a wonderful and unforgettable band. God Bless Dana Key. RIPRest In Paradise

343. In Your Face Shout

October 26, 2010low5point3 comments

IN YOUR FACE (1989) Shout Ah, when the world was all spandex and Aqua Net. Those were the days! In the midst of a deluge of mediocre big hair bands on both the Christian and mainstream ledger, there were a few stand outs with exceptional songwriting, musicianship and production. Unfortunately the odds were never in the favor of the quality groups. For every impressive band like Shout there were far too many Strykens. Ken Tamplin, the voice and mind behind Shout, will appear twice on this list with two different incarnations of relatively the same sound. No one in CCM came even close to duplicating Tamplins big voice, big guitar, big production or big hair. The second of the two Frontline released Shout albums, In Your Face was a tour de force for the genre and a true Guitar Hero fans wet dream.The inclusion of Joshua Galetta (Joshua) helped solidy the guitar chops and bring more consistent top notch lead guitar work and a blazing speed unmatched in CCM. Nothing groundbreaking song wise as it fit in perfectly with all that was happening in music at the time with bands like Cinderella, Poison, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and Van Halens more commercial sound that was developing. The memorable hooks and the band assembled and guest appearances are stunning. The title track features 400 of the greatest guitar gods in music history. OK, not quite 400, it only seems that way. The song does feature many of the LA scenes finest guitarist performing quick leads lasting from 5 to 15 seconds. Make sure you listen with both headphones as the solos bounce back and forth between channels. Tamplin set himself apart from the pack by being the finest songwriter in the genre and producing albums that were HUGE sounding. Layers upon layers of guitars and vocals were the trademarks for the band and this album was no exception. Tamplin never broke new ground topically, but that is not the point. he wrote memorable songs with strong messages for his particular audience while never sounding as simplistic and trite as his contemporaries. Also unique is the absence of any real ballad that was almost a necessity in CCM. Rather the band simply featured what it was best at and ignored the limited radio play it would have

received anyway. Waiting On You is the closest thing to a ballad and it is much heavier than what Christian radio at the time would ever touch. When a particular style goes our of vogue and the pundits ridicule it based on the cool factor too often many great artists and their albums receive a critique clearly not deserved. Shout, especially here, deserves the recognition for creating great music, far above the level of their contemporaries, for the genre they are a part of. For that they are clearly worthy.

344. Thirst Randy Stonehill


October 26, 2010low5point7 comments

THIRST (1998) Randy Stonehill When most people consider the music of Randy Stonehill there is a tendency to reference either the early Larry Norman produced Jesus Music, hippie releases of the new wave rocker era produced by Terry Scott Taylor and backed by Daniel Amos. Perhaps some may even take under consideration the Springsteenesque Wild Frontier, but many will unfortunate either neglect or be simply unfamiliar with later material like Lazarus Heart and this release, Thirst. In doing so, they would also be missing out on some of Stonehills finest work. Produced by Rick Elias and backed by one the finest assortment of musicians like Tom Howard, Phil Madeira, Jerry McPherson and Elias, Stonehill created a record that was expressive, earnest and just down right great. No longer a mainstay on a major Christian label and no longer gracing the cover of CCM with the release of each album, a mature and contemplative Stonehill wrote a consistently strong album. The album also contain one of Stonehills best radio friendly tunes in his career, Father of Lights. If this was the mid-80s and Stonehill was still a mainstay fixture within the world of CCM the song would have been a number one and would have been nominated for a Dove Award.

Hand of God and Fire are both strong rock tunes with the latter being co-written with Jimmy A. The final song, Everything You Know (Is Incorrect) brought a personal favorite, David Edwards, out of hibernation as the song was written by Edwards and Stonehill. There are no hints of those previous novelty, humorous songs that occupied the early Stonehill world until the albums hidden bonus track. Primarily here the mood is thoughtful and mature. Baby Hates Clowns has an Elvis Costello feel while the majority of the album has more of a Jackson Brown Americana rock sound that fits Stonehill best. It is always difficult when dealing with an artist like Stonehill to know when he is speaking autobiographically or not so Lonely House may be an early indication of the struggles at home recently revealed or simply an expression of a common theme of the human experience. In either case it serves as a great example of the depth and honesty the whole album presents.

345. Vox Humana Daniel Amos


October 26, 2010low5point9 comments

VOX HUMANA (1984) Daniel Amos Despite not being one of the best of Alarma Chronicles releases (in fact many call it the weakest of the four), it still remains one of my favorite Daniel Amos albums of all time. Its fun, its commercial, its popits all the things many DA fans cringe at. It is also much more upbeat and positivbe than the other four albums that make up the Alarma Chronicles. Vox Humana has significantly more keyboards than most DA album and it may have had to do with the departure of longtime member Jerry Chamberlain whose original and discordant guitar styling was a trademark sound for the band. Relying on more keyboards and even (gasp) the dreaded electronic drum sounds (they werent alone for the time) the album sounded more pop and, in many ways, more current than other DA projects. Borrowing from everything from David Bowie and Gary Numan to Wall of Voodoo and Violent Femmes, Vox Humana sounded very much like what was being heard on college radio stations around the country and on LAs world famous KROQ. Lyrically the album deals with mans position in a modern world and fears and joys relating to the future and mans obsession with

technology. Imagine if Taylor and company knew what was to happen in the next 20 or so years in regards to technology! Maybe he knew? Travelog deals with a TV obsessed man whose life revolves and is controlled by television. Rocket Packs is a techno driven song about the disappointment one feels when the future is not what they expect. Ultimately it reveals a mankind that never changes in the ways that are most important. The first single, which received a fair amount of airplay in KYMS back in the day, is Home Permanent, a song about the need to find the eternal home since this world is not our ultimate residence. It may also go down as the single most commercial sounding song in DA history. One memorable highlight is the now classic Dance Stop. The song contains several pauses in which the listener is commanded to stop dancing, only to resume on command. Hidden amongst the humor is Taylors strong witted look at the world potential destructive ways. Its Sick always reminds me of Wall of Voodoos Mexican Radio. Taylor also reveals on this album his love and fascination with famed poet William Blake with a stunning song named in his honor. That song along with Sanctuary remain two of the finest songs Taylor has ever penned. The latter closes the album is such an emotionally haunting manner that I still recall several times having to just sit and contemplate the song before continuing with my life. The David Bowie like vocals are achingly strong and the content is just staggering. Near perfection!

346. Perfecta Adam Again


October 26, 2010low5point3 comments

PERFECTA (1995) Adam Again Though this is not the best of Adam Agains amazing discography it is still one of the great recordings in alternative music within the Christian world. But it also remains a poignant and powerful reminder of the greatness of Gene Eugene and a lasting testament as the final album recorded and released before his death.

Perfecta followed Dig, one of the true masterpieces in CCM history and many originally thought the mellower vibe was a disappointment. But as time wore on the listeners began to realize what a potent punch is hidden within the softer frame. Dealing with the his divorce cause Eugene to be more contemplative and introspective and the music and lyrics reveal this struggle. As a result the album is filled with slow building tunes that increase with intensity. Stone opens as one of the mellowest songs in the bands tenure, but also one of the most melodic. It reveals a man wandering in his mind or on the streets looking hopelessly for what was lost relationally. Christian artists usually do not divulge nights at bars as lyrical fodder, but Adam Again is no ordinary band and Eugene no ordinary songwriter. The cry of just wanting to turn to stone is so real and gut twisting the listener feels the loss. The basis for Strobe actually started with a friend of Eugene who used to come over late at night and sneak around trying to get into the house studio where Eugene lived and worked. All You Lucky People is a personal favorite vocal performance. Many have compared Eugenes voice to Michael Stipe of REM but I always found an edgier resonance and more diversity of passion from Eugene. Much more can and will be said about the band and man as other related projects are discussed.

347. The Boat Ashore Michael Roe


October 26, 2010low5point3 comments

THE BOAT ASHORE (1996) Michael Roe The first of several Michael Roe related projects (solo, Lost Dogs, 77s) The Boat Ashore was the second of Roes solo projects and on it Roe becomes more approachable and transparent. He also played some of his most impressive, yet subdued guitar of his entire career. Its a beautiful record of songs that stands up well against the ticking of time. With the 77s Roe can grab you by the heart by reaching down through your throat. On The Boat Ashore Roe does so by lulling you into a resistant free, prostrate position with melody, subtlety and beauty in ten perfectly crafted songs. On his solo projects Roe is much more Neil Young troubadour than Robert Plant front man and the respite from the crunching guitars and pounding drums is a welcomed relief and allows the softer and more introspective Roe to shine. But dont

think that mellow means passive as the content and guitar playing is all passion, with an emphasis on feeling. A great example of the above is the first real track, Honey Run. Pay close attention to the guitar styling of precision and emotion. But here the layered vocals also bring home the sweetness and melancholy vibe the music delivers. Love Like Gold delivers an acoustic guitar track layered just under tasty electric guitar solos. Much of the album has a stream of consciousness feel as the vocals dont seem to follow any normal constraints of verse chorus structure associated with pop music. A friend of mine once called Michales solo style here free form psychedelic pop. That may be fitting as 60s influences abound while never overpowering. The lyrical content appears to consistently deal with dealing with what life deals you. The dissolution of relationships and the longing for connection are not new themes for Roe, but here they appear more personal and the wounds appear to not have completely healed but at least are beginning to scab over. Roe is careful not to tear it off but willing to at least pick at it. It has been this willingness over his entire career that has made Roe one of the finest songwriters and artists in CCM.

330. Idle Cure Idle Cure


October 29, 2010low5point4 comments

IDLE CURE (1986) Idle Cure Mike MacLane of Frontline records called me up when I was working at Maranatha Village and told I needed to come over and listen to something. Like I always did, I hurried over to their offices and we went into Brians office to listen to music. Mike told Brian had should turn it up really high. That was always a good sign! Seconds later a piercing scream of Breakaway shook the office windows. Followed immediately be crunching guitar and a monster hook. the Foreigner like vocals and huge, melodic chorus had me hooked. That was my introduction to Idle Cure. Lead singer Steve

Shannon would sing a David Edwards song at my wedding a few years later.Heavier and cooler than Petra, but not metal. The popular phrase men of their time fits Idle cure better then most. Sure, the Def Leppard, Foreigner rock was for a specific era and many judge too harshly the time. What cant be mistaken, though, is the fact that for the time, this album was pure gold. Great rockers mixed with radio ready ballads were the perfect hit combination. This formula was worked for optimum success by producer Bill Baumgart. Enough keyboards to keep the record from straying into the big hair metal category and diversity in arrangements allowed for constant repeated listening. What was strayed from was the songwriting formula. Toned down verses, big hooky choruses, massive wall of sound backing vocals and tasty, just heavy enough guitars. Foreigner, Bon Jovi and the rest understood how this worked and so did Idle Cure. The first ballad, Take It, was Frontlines first big radio hit I believe. The Chicago influenced ballad would also be one of the first background tapes the company would have to produce as people wanted to sing the song during church. Six of the eight songs were rockers and two ballads. Again, the perfect formula for hit records. But it really boiled down to just how good the songs actually were.

332. Talk About Life Kim Hill


October 29, 2010low5point1 comment

TALK ABOUT LIFE (1989) Kim Hill Kim was that girl next door artist CCM was looking for. That is, if you lived next door to a really attractive girl who appeared to live on a farm and possessed nothing but jeans and an acoustic guitar who drove a 1950s era puck up truck. Yeahthat next door. After a decent debut that showed glimmers of hope for originality and artistic merit, Kim Hills sophomore release, Talk About Life, revealed those possibilities. Less Nashville pop and more female singer-songwriter. Less AC pop and more rock, country and folk. Hill was Christian music answer to the Melissa Etheridge/Meredith Brooks. jean wearing female rocker/songwriter.

Hills husky alto voice (think Chistine McVie, KT Tunstall)) was great fit to the earthy, acoustic rock on the album. What also worked is a strong lyrical content that went beyond the normal CCM categories, even if the themes remained similar. There is a passion in the content as well as in the performance. Snakes in the Grass is one of the great songs in the history of CCM female artists. Her vocal flexibility and range mixed with a stark and edgy production makes this a stand out on so many levels. Its a song Maria McKee would do, but with no guarantee of better results. The acoustic guitar accentuated by an incredible rock string arrangement is pure studio magic. Brown Bannister, more noted for his AC pop, outdid himself on this album. The title track and Closer to a Broken Heart continue the great rock sound in the vein of The Pretenders and Tom Petty. In fact, there are really no weak moments on the albums and has remained her strongest effort, though her follow up also contained similar quality work. Hill would later move in a more worship direction and an involvement with Women of faith type ministries. She has yet to return to this type of music and that is true loss for Christian Music. But even some 20 years later this album sound fantastic and not dated in any way.

337. World of Sand Servant


October 27, 2010low5point3 comments

WORLD OF SAND (1982) Servant Born out of the Jesus Movement of the early 70s and dedicated for a time to communal living, Servant was a touring evangelistic crusade with one of the best live shows CCM ever saw. Lights, smoke, lasers and choreographed on stage performances. And throughout it all they were able to create several very strong album that will be highlighted throughout this list. World of Sand was easily the most ambitious, if not even, project. The good songs are very, very good. the weaker songs have more to do with the novelty effect and the rock opera arrangements. The album originally only had 8 songs and came with a bonus single with two more songs. One of the bonus songs is a great instrumental (Treeplanter Stomp) that would

wonderfully behind NFL highlight reels and the other (Cog in the Wheel) features guitarist Bruce Wrights fine playing. As for the main project, the 8 songs continue Servants holy lifestyle and social justice themes that have permeated every project the band ever did. Two Masters deals with the problems with money and the Church while New Revolution continues the theme with a call to pick up your cross and leave the world behind. Wright shines here with a great, though much too short, solo. On World of Sand the band really honed and defined their sound as a band with strong, fun rockers and emotive and powerful ballads in the vein of Meatloaf. This will be explored further near the end of the release. Long Hard Fight is a futile attempt to be Christian radio friendly. The song is not futile, but CCM radio was not going to play a song encouraging Christians to fight the system and enact social justice. Jungle Music must have sounded really good on paper. The rock and roll apologetic was great for the first few listens and was a favorite during concerts, but has not worn well these many years later. The main problem is the odd vocal arrangements and safari sound effects. Lyrically the song is really strong, and the guitar work fantastic. When taken within the framework of the time at which the album was release the 38 Special and Cars (seriously) influenced Cheap Talk is one of the best songs in Servants catalog and an extended version of the song was ahuge favorite live and deservedly so. It is here the album takes a HUGE turn and, ultimately, what the album is remembered for. The community from which the band came suffered a major loss with the death of some members in a tragic car crash, including a young member. The event is recreated and results explored in the mini-musical and progressive rock titan, Sudden Death. The song then flows directly into the album finale and altar call song Come Jesus Come. Sudden Death starts with a very boppy, early 70s type Up With People feel melody telling the story of the events leading up to the accident. Two minutes in the song drastically changes and with sound effects added, the story turns. The music becomes much darker and heavier. This was very progressive for the band as it sounded more like Kansas here than the normal pop rock they known for. Sandy Brocks voice takes over and with an intensity and pain previously never displayed as she plays the role of the grieving mother. Another musical change with just a classical piano supporting a more melodic Brock challenging herself with whether her faith was a real faith. Each movement of revelation is interspersed with Wrights guitar work and Matt Spransys fine piano. The songs resolution end with the final two minutes being filled with remarks from the Scriptures of hope and begin a nearly worshipful section to close the song. The ultimate point is the hope of the Resurrection (1 Cor 15) and quotes O death, where is thy sting.

Come, Jesus, Come was lifted from the classic Jesus people musical, Lonesome Stone, which also featured a handful of Servant band members and associates. It remains the finest ballad vocal of Brocks career and a fitting close to the album. Thirty years later I still well up listening to these final songs. Because of its intensity it really is difficult to listen to over and over, but the ambitious nature of the song and album makes it a worthy consideration.

319. Town to Town Phil Keaggy


November 2, 2010low5point3 comments

TOWN TO TOWN (1981) Phil Keaggy There is not a lot to say about Phil Keaggy that hasnt already been said. In fact, I can be pretty sure than nothing I say will be in any way enlightening to the reader. I can do no more than to simply repeat the previous accolades and find a way to recommend even more so the need to own as much Phil Keaggy as humanly possible, especially his 70s and 80s material which is just staggeringly impressive. Town to Town is separated from nearly all other Keaggy releases by the fact that it may be his most accessible and commercial. It contains more radio friendly and pop based structured than any other Keaggy recording outside of the band Sundays Child. The opening track is a great live favorite that tells the story of a one night reunion with his classic rock band, Glass Harp. This song, like many of Keaggys, suffer from the guitar solos being limited. The same is not the case for the following track, Full Circle. Here is a great example of how to create a pop rock song without shorting the guitar aficionado fans desire for Keaggy guitar solos. What a Wonder You Are featured vocal support from the queen of Christian duets, Michele Pillar, and ended up being the biggest hit from the album. The song broke molds in that was one of the first radio hits that was simply a love song without having to be a wedding song. Previously the only romantic songs were those specifically created for weddings. The album closes with one of Keaggy most popular and enduring songs, Let Everything Else Go. The beautiful song proves that stunning guitar work does not always have to be blistering guitar

solos, but also soothing, atmospheric sounds created at the hands of a master. Here we find beautiful and haunting sounds that so create the musical canvas Keaggys Paul McCartney-like vocals can paint upon.

321. Voices in Shadows Youth Choir


November 2, 2010low5point4 comments

VOICES IN SHADOWS (1985) Youth Choir Back when members of the alternative Christian band The Choir were younger they were known as Youth Choir. They were part of the whole Southern California Second Wave of Jesus Music out of Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa. The same church that helped birth bands like Daniel Amos, Love Song and Mustard Seed Faith would a decade later introduce bands like the Lifesavors, Altar Boys, Undercover and a few years later, Youth Choir. While the majority of the other bands would maintain a very evangelical (at times preachy) message with very upfront lyrics and messages, Youth Choir would begin as they have remained, a band with questions, doubts and struggles. This would also match the musical expression here with a European, atmospheric and swirling guitar sound reminiscent of early U2. The line-up would last a few albums even though Steve Hindalong would not actually play drums until the following EP. His presence though was felt in his role and songwriter. It is Hindalongs thoughtful and poetic approach to the art of songwriting that separated Youth Choir from their peers. There are so many great songs on this album that highlighting only a few would do an injustice to the album as a whole, but a few must be recognized. Someone Is Calling, Wounds of Young Heart and Why Are All the Children Crying remain timeless classics while A Million Years could be recorded today and sound just as beautiful and timely. It remains this reviewers all time favorite Youth Choir (The Choir) song and is a stunning hymn of eternal hope. Suffice it to say this a serious AYSO.

325. Fire and Love Guardian


November 1, 2010low5point3 comments

FIRE AND LOVE (1990) Guardian As the big hair metal trend began to wane some bands were able to escape the pigeon holing the music industry was known for.l Those bands included Motley Crue, Guns and Roses, Bon Jovi and, in Christian circles, Guardian. After an EP released through Strypers mainstream label, Enigma, the band asked to be released to pursue more Christian ventures. After the Oz Fox (Stryper) produced debut was met with decent results the band enlisted the help of producing brothers, John and Dino Elefante. This, coupled with some vital membership changes took Guardian to a whole new level of acceptance and popularity. The first album produced by the Elefantes and released on their Pakaderm label was Fire and Love, and soon the band blew up. Taking a more refined hard rock sound with touches of GNR, Bon Jovi and Van Halen, the band reached new heights. It did nopt hurt that the better production quality focused on superb vocalist Jamie Rowe and guitar god Tony Polacios. Of all of the bands from the era in CCM it always seemed like Guardian was the one most likely to be poised for success in the mainstream market. Their quality always seemed a notch above and the songwriting completely in tune with what was happening musically at the time. They also never appeared preachy despite having very Christian content lyrically.

308. Right Where You Are Kenny Marks


November 4, 2010low5point4 comments

RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE (1983) Kenny Marks In the world of Christian pop music more than a handful of artists bounded on the scene without the songwriting credentials, artistic acumen and lyrical insightand they sold a ton of records. Other like Kenny Marks made a name for themselves and sold a decent amount, but never attained the popularity their quality work deserved. Often favorably compared to Bryan Adam and Richard Marx, Kenny Marks was a singersongwriter that plied his trade in the CCM world and should have done much better. His songs combined the popular and common themes of mainstream CCM with a twist or difference that set him apart. he would also deal with subjects either taboo or poorly communicated in other settings. He may be most noted for his trilogy of songs that surrounded the relationship between a Johnny and a Jeannie. Two High School sweethearts that date, marry, have a child and divorce. Though a later album would bring Johnny back as a character, it is the three songs on three records in a row that are of most note. That trilogy started here with Growing Up Too Fast. The albums biggest hit was the title track, a stirring ballad about Gods undying love and forgiveness. One Small Voice reminds the listener of Gods attempt to speak to us in the small things in a busy and loud world. Single-Minded Love addresses the loneliness and difficulty of being a single adult within the walls of the Church. Marks had a decent little career, but it should have been stronger and lasted longer. There were three of four fantastic albums released throughout the mid-80s that still deserve repeated listening.

309. Ping Pong Over the Abyss The 77s


November 4, 2010low5point15 comments

PING PONG OVER THE ABYSS (1983) The 77s While working at a small christian bookstore in the early 80s I would eagerly anticipate a monthly release from a New Release sampling company called Sonlight. they would send out demo sample of upcoming releases for customers to preview before purchasing the latest music. One tape was labeled Scratch Band. I listened to it over and over and over. It took forever for the album to be released and when is finally did hit the shelves the band had changed its name. The 77s Immediately labeled as some new punk band the truth couldnt have been any further from the truth. With songs having more in common with post punk new wave and Americana, blues rock and roll, The 77s were really a rock band. Just a rock band! The first track was closer to Tom Petty and the Cars musically and lyrically was much more bold than they were ever given credit for. Mike Roes penchant for dealing with world philosophies started earlier and remained a common theme for the following years. Though here it is a Steve Scott song that displays that worldview. It should be noted here that this is truly the most band oriented release with all members taking songwriting credits and Roe only composing four of the numbers. The first Roe song is How Can You Love, a straight rocker followed by Its Sad, a unique keyboard driven new wave song that became a controversial and amazing live song. The original version of Someone New appears here and will be remade on their follow up, All Fall Down. The title track is the heaviest rocker on the album and hints at future Roe guitar work. Progressive, loud and driving, this song remained a concert favorite for years and the highlight from the album. the album closes with a cover of Denomination Blues, a classic song covered countless times. This version is mellower than one might expect but also shows Roes vocal prowess. It also hints at a Byrds-like style that would show up again throughout the years, marking the diversity of the band.

This will by no means be the last of the 77s on this list and Roes name, which has been mentioned several times in the past, will be mentioned even more often as the list continues.

310. Mommy Dont Love Daddy Anymore Resurrection Band


November 4, 2010low5point7 comments

MOMMY DONT LOVE DADDY ANYMORE (1981) Resurrection Band Back before Rez was called Rez Band they were known simply as Resurrection Band. And for quite some time they were the most important band in Christian Music. No other band rocked like them during this time and no other band meant as much to their fans as this band. They lived what they preached more than any other band in CCM historyperiod. Led by husband and wife singers, Glenn and Wendi Kaiser, Resurrection band formed out of an inner city community called Jesus People USA. The community held all things in common and fed and ministered to thousands upon thousands over the years. The band was a ministry offshoot of the community and was never a money making vehicle for any of its members. Mommy Dont Love Daddy Anymore was the band 4th official release (two very rare demo tapes also exist) and continued the street level ministry focus of lyrical content. Musically this is one of the more commercial sounding albums of the early five hard rock releases. It also would, with the previous release (Colours) contain some of the most poignant, powerful and controversial songs in the bands history. Even the cover drew ire from the CCM bookstore world with the sad depiction of a child mourning the loss of his parents through divorce. The songs on the rest of the album would broach subjects beyond even the divorce mentioned in the title track. These include the treatment of the handicapped, personal alienation, an apathetic Church, suicidal thoughts, racism and abortion. These are not subjects often addressed by Christian artists, especially in 1981, but were actually the common content for this amazing band.

Nearly everything works on this album. Elevator Muziks attack on modern consumerism still rings true while Lovin You was modern worship before anyone had any idea what that was. But it was the centerpiece of the entire album, The Chair, that would cause many to call this their best work. The song, dealing with the plight of paraplegics sung in the first person is one of Glenns more earnest and emotional performances. Both musically and lyrically this is as good as a song be. This is what a great rock song should be! I will also state that this album contains Wendis finest vocals. This shouldnt even be considered an AYSO, its an album you must own and should be ashamed not to!

316. Get Ready Darrell Mansfield


November 2, 2010low5point2 comments

GET READY (1980) Darrell Mansfield Several months ago someone asked me if there were and jam albums in CCM. Off the top of my head I struggled to come up with any according to my friends definition. What was being sought after was a rock and roll album that wasnt afraid to have the musicians take over a song for a while and letting each instrument have its share of the spotlight. Get Ready is such an album! The average song lasts longer then 5 minutes with a very simple blues verse chorus structure which leaves ample time for long instrumental jams featuring guitar and harmonica (Mansfields instrument of choice). Solos are loud and long and a heavy blues influence. The album was actually released on Polydor and had very limited Christian distribution when originally released. There was hope of Mansfield breaking into mainstream AOR radio but it never really happened despite relatively positive reviews. It may have had to do with the very evangelistic lyrics, something artists has never compromised on. The title track sounds like something from Dylans Saved album with a gospel choir accompanying the great guitar work.

There are no ballads on the original 8 song release and only one song that could be categorized as pop. This would be the last album before Eric Turner would be added to the band n guitar. Turners heavier rock influence would be felt on future releases, but here it is original guitarists, Dennis Carothers, who handles the slide and electric lead perfectly. Fans of blues and southern rock like Molly Hatchet, 30 Special, Lynard Skynard and the Allman Brothers will find something here to like, In fact, this is the album I originally hoped Rick Cua would have made with the Outlaws influence. Mansfields importance to Jesus Music and later CCM should not be understated, even though he primarily remained a Southern California regional star. Along with Glen kaiser Mansfield singlehandedly kept the influence of blues music alive in CCM.

317. The Painter John Michael Talbot and Terry Talbot


November 2, 2010low5point1 comment

THE PAINTER (1980) John Michael and Terry Talbot Reunited for the first time since several albums together at The Talbot Bothers and as members of the famed Mason Profitt band, the modern Protestant evangelical Terry Talbot and Roman Catholic Monk John Michael Talbot created a record for the ages. Taking Terrys more soulful and pop approach and combining it with John Michaels more liturgical and classical approach created a more thoughftul record for Terry and a more accissible record for John Michael. What many do not realize because of the robes and liturgical flair to his music is that John Michael Talbot is one of the finest musicians in CCM. His acoustic guitar work has no rival. He ca play nearly all stringed instruments and a host of others as well. He is a brilliant musicians and phenomenal songwriter. But is by combining with his brother than many discovered his immense talents. The album contains many songs still sung today in Churches around the world (both Catholic and Protestant) like Wonderful Counselor and The Mystery. The album is clearly memorable and a wonderful expression of artistry that many Protestants seldom, if ever, come in

contact with. The only real downside to the album is that it is less than 30 minutes long as many of the liturgical songs of John Michael Talbot are quite short. One other note: Talbot also toured a few years later with Reformed musician, Michael Card, causing quite a stir in many evangelical circles.

298. Holy Soldier Holy Soldier


November 8, 2010low5point3 comments

HOLY SOLDIER (1990) Holy Soldier The eponymous debut release from Holy Soldier remains of the true landmark albums in the Christian rock and metal world . Myrrh Records finally put their substantial industry weight behind a metal band and the band did not disappoint with a stellar debut that hits right in the center of the metal world at the time. Heavy drums and David Zaffiro produced wall of vocals and guiatrs created a legitimate metal album in any arena. The great struggle the band would face through its decade long career was the inability to stay together for very long without personnel changes. This was most notable in the on again off again relationship lead vocalist Steve Patrick would have with the band. Most agree the best projects are those in which Patrick was a participant. But that would all follow this classic debut. Fans of Guns and roses, Bon Jovi, Skid Row and a host of LA metal bands would find something here to0 appreciate. The Poison like power ballad, The Pain Inside of Me, showed the musical diversity as a real strength of the band. Where Strypers ballads often sounded cheesy and by no means metal, this song shows the power of writing a great ballad within a specific genre. But the ultimate strength lies in the rock! Stranger kick off the album and sounds like the best the genre could provide. Very strong musically with beefy production and a monster vocal performance. Patricks sexy roll to his pronunciation while singing separated him from many of his CCM counterparts.

Much of Christian metal (big hair or hard rock) had a tendency to suffer from average to mediocre production, especially debut projects. Here, with the help and support of Zaffiro and Myrrh, Holy Soldier was able to create a great record. And though the band would continue to create solid projects throughout its tenure, this debut would stand out as real treasure. Future releases would also carry a distinctly more :mainstream lyrical content and one of the great values of this album is the fact the significantly more evangelical approach still sounded real and authentic within the genre.

300. Art of the State AD


November 8, 2010low5point4 comments

ART OF THE STATE (1985) AD Though often referred to as Kerry Livgren and AD, this album is actually just an AD album, more having to do with contractual obligations that with any artistic persuasion. Kerry Livgren was still under contract both CBS Records and to his band, Kansas, and using his name outside of the CBS family would be a breach of that contract. The first AD was released by CBS and he was given permission to use his name on that album. After Livgrens conversion to Christianity there was rift formed in the band Kansas between Livgrens Christian emphasis and lead vocalist Steve Walshs real non-Christian worldview and lifestyle. Walsh left the band to pursue a solo career using the moniker Streets. Livgren stayed with Kansas and held auditions to replace Walsh. Though John Elefante would eventually get the gig, vocalists Warren Ham and Michael Gleason caught Livgrens eye and both would become members of AD as vocalists and instrumentalist. Both would also tour at one time or another with Kansas in support positions. Livgren was writing more prominently Christian material and was finding that working with other phenomenal Christian musicians was both artistically and personally satisfying. Bassist Dave Hope was feeling the same way and they joined forces to create the side-project AD, along with Ham, Gleason and Kansas drummer Phil Ehart. the first album will be discussed later, but here AD bows in with Art of the State. The comparisons to Kansas are obvious, but there are marked differences as well with much more of

a worship emphasis in the classical influences (All Creation Sings) and some more experimental underpinnings that would also be found on Kansas Drastic Measures album (We Are the Men). The heavier influence of brass instruments is also noticeable given Hams strength in this area. Being able to use two different primary vocalist also helped the diversity of the project as can be attested by Games of Chance and Circumstance and The Fury. The progressive combination of rock and classical that made Kansas a mega-group are found here throughout as well. But one may note a sense of freedom lyrically to be more direct and that freedom is a positive influence. Songs like Heartland and Zion take on a combination of political and spiritual themes. The albums closer Up From the Wasteland remains a personal favorite of one of Livgrens finer and most interesting songs.

301. The Skys the Limit Leon Patillo


November 8, 2010low5point5 comments

THE SKYS THE LIMIT (1984) Leon Patillo Throughout the history of CCM many artists made their way over from secular music to Christian Music. Barry McGuire, Joe English, Bonnie Bramlett and a host of others. But few ever reached the critical mass success as former Santana lead vocalist, Leon Patillo. Patillo got his start in the late 60s as the focal point of the funk band, Creation. He would later work with Martha & the Vandellas as well as with George Clintons Funkadelic. His greatest success would come during an eight year stint with guitar god, Santana. Patillo would leave Santana in 1981 to begin a Christian music solo career. Each of his first three studio album would contain a few CCM classic, but were never stellar projects from beginning til end until the release of The Skys the Limit. Earlier releases would contain monster hits like Dance Children Dance, Flesh of My Flesh and Cornerstone, but here Patillo sparkles from beginning to end. The album contains several top hits including J.E.S.U.S., the title track, Ive Heard the Thunder, Love Calling and his second hugely popular wedding song, Security. Several of the more upbeat

tunes were often re-mixed into extended dances versions that were immensely popular at the time. No Christian roller skate night was ever complete without the extended version of J.E.S.U.S.

305. Allies Allies


November 5, 2010low5point2 comments

ALLIES (1985) Allies I remember my exact thought when I first heard the song Surrender by Allies Holy crap, what was that!!! That voice was just over the top. Those screams, in perfect pitch and intense, were something that simply did not exist in CCM. No onerepeat NO ONEsang like that in CCM! Add to that the fantastic melody, huge production and great guitar work and one just had to wonder what were they thinking with that cover? I understand that colorizing was cool at the time, but seriously, was no one at the record company fired for that one? That aside, the debut of Allies was one of the biggest surprises of 1985 and the band went on to a wonderful career. Led by former Sweet Comfort Band guitarists, Randy Thomas, and vocalist extraordinaire, Bob Carlisle, the band would experience a solid 6 album career. With Allies, Thomas could what was working musically at the end of Sweet Comforts tenure and crank it up a bit with Carlisles rockier vocals. Fitting nicely in the world of Toto, Petra and White Heart, the band experienced initial and long lasting success. Future albums would expand upon the formula here, but few songs would match the passion of the ones on this album. It is admittedly formulaic rock, but what a great formula. Thomas would work with other vocalist later (Identical Strangers) and Carlisle would pursue a solo career. They would join forces again later to write a little song called Butterfly Kisses.

289. Stranded in Babylon Larry Norman


November 9, 2010low5point3 comments

STRANDED IN BABYLON (1991/1993) Larry Norman Stranded in Babylon is easily the finest work in Larry Normans career post the 1970s. After a decade of spotty releases and countless reissues, covers and best of, Larry Norman roared back into the spotlight for some with this album. It should have received greater recognition and sales, but it did show that given the right situation that Norman was still an artist to be reckoned with. The album is a collaboration of sorts with his brother Charles. In fact every note and vocal came from the two brothers. God III is a response of reaction of sorts to John Lennons God and U2s God II. It shows a return to Normans sly with and caustic verbiage that had been missing since Something New Under the Son. Musically there are touches of great mid-80s alternative sounds like heard from World Party and a very modernized blues vibe that would recall his earliest projects. All this while sounding very modern for the release date. There are very few ballads as the album remains one of Normans most consistent rock efforts including some of the heaviest music of his career. The biting lyrics of the 1970s Only Vising This Planet return here. Few things are sacred as Norman unleashes attacks against politicians, the Church, hypocrisy and the embrace of the status quo. This may not be Normans finest work ever, but it did show that his chops had not disappeared over the 80s like many assumed and does rank among his best that will be addressed later on this list.

290. Everything Thats On My Mind Charlie Peacock


November 9, 2010low5point3 comments

EVERYTHING THATS ON MY MIND (1994) Charlie Peacock The first of several albums on this list from Charlie Peacock, Everything Thats On My Mind remains one of Peacocks most accessible and pop records to date. Filled with radio friendly hits and wonderful musical expressions, Peacock here shows that popular or accessible does not necessarily mean sell out or determinative lack of creativity. To underestimate Peacocks import in CCM is too often too easy. Not only has he brought a significantly more creative edge to the genre, he has produced, mentored and developed an industry worth of important and long lasting artists. He also maintains an incredible legacy of personal and professional integrity and solid and Biblical doctrinal stand in life and music. One Man gets Around shows Peacocks often hidden humorous side as he explored the unbelievable diverse impact Jesus has had on all walks of life in all areas of the globeeven Nashville. Inside Out, Upside Down and its jangly Kinks influenced guitars reminds the listener that living in the world without the cross is futile and reverses the created order. When Peacock branches into more artistic fair the results are staggering. My Fathers Crown describes the feelings of the loss of a father loved and admired. More importantly it addresses the importance of fathers life has on the eternal destiny of his child. A personal favorite is Monkeys at the Zoo. The Beatlesque (think Hey Jude) number has a great slow moving groove and killer bridge that shows a more passionate Peacock vocal rarely displayed. It is also one of the more transparent and revealing songs in Peacocks repertoire as the confessional builds into repentance. This album is often overlooked by Peacock fans because it is less artsy than many releases that followed and preceded it. This is to their peril as it remains a strong work and worthy of inclusion.

293. Soldiers Under Command Stryper


November 9, 2010low5point3 comments

SOLDIERS UNDER COMMAND (1985) Stryper This was when everything just went insane! With the strong success of the initial EP Stryper was poised to make a major impact on the music world with their first full length album, Soldiers Under command. It was also at this time that televangelist and youth speakers were voicing disapproval on the world of CCM with loud and venemous attacks against artists like Amy Grant, Petra and even Sandy Patti. The perfect storm of glam rock and Gods music critics created a furor not seen ever since. The more the TBN crowd railed against the Devils Music (Stryper) the larger the bands fan base grew. The growth of Strypers impact was directly related to an amazing full length debut. the album rocked from the very beginning and did not disappoint. The war-like image on the album cover was lived out in the militant, evangelistic approach lyrically on the album. The title track rocked with heavy, HEAVY DRUMS and a great dual guitar attack. It was also on this album that the world was introduced to the power ballad in a big way. Fearless radio programmers at KYMS (with some constant encouragement from a certain young wannabe deejay) added Together As One to the normal format of Amy Grant, Petra and Michael W. Smith. The phones lit up every time it was played with listeners asking who was performing this great new wedding song. The band did show great improvement and maturity, both in their musical skills and in their songwriting. There was still plenty of Jesus is the rock that makes us roll pablum the genre was noted for, but there was also a sense of a beginning community that Strpyer would be spearheading as their loyal fans would take the message behind the music to their friends. It is in this setting that a song like Reach Out becomes more a communal anthem rather than just an evangelistic propaganda slogan. There would also be social and personal issues dealt with on this album like personal piety (First Love) and sexual purity (A Love Thats Real). The title track deals with the reality of spiritual warfare. It was also on this album the use of keyboards were introduced. This accentuated the normal big hair, big guitar attack, and showed the heavy influence bands like Styx and REP Speedwagon actually had on the band.

Critics, especially the self anointed protectors of definers of Godly music continued to miss the point. The Stryper phenomenon had much more to do with the sense of belonging and community fostered and promoted by the band. Kids wore Stryper paraphernalia not only because they were fans, but also because they were belonging to something bigger than themselves. It is also why even several years beyond the highest popularity and artistic zeniths their fan base remained loyal and supportive and there is a continuing respect for the band.

296. Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream Mason Proffit


November 8, 2010low5point1 comment

LAST NIGHT I HAD THE STRANGEST DREAM (1971) Mason Proffit Mason Proffit is what happens when Nashville has no influence whatsoever on country music. Its perfectly pitched content, mature and sophisticated arrangements, staggeringly stunning lyrics and nearly flawless execution makes Last Night I Had the Strangest Dreams one of the true classics in the genre. The album may actually be the least successful release from the band, but ends up being the best they ever offered. John Michael and Terry Talbot were leading voices in the band and few CCM fans would ever recognize this fact. The album is filled with longing steel guitar, anguished mandolin and any number of melancholy and heartfelt musical expressions. Though possessing some great loves song there is a real absence of trucks, guns and bar fights to be found within its lyrics. Perhaps it is because the band was formed in Chicago that there is nothing sounding Nashville like. It is also not the LA country most noted during the time period. There is more Dylan and Grateful Dead than Poco and the Eagles. There are so many wonderful gems on this project that it would be longer than what I am allowing to give for space to comment on them all. One highlight though worth considering is Jewel. This heartfelt and painful tune tells the story of an abused black woman in a white mans world. Whether set in a slave setting or simply in a modern office, the truth of the story rings authentic and powerful.

It would be difficult to track a copy of this album down, but it would be well worth the effort. A serious and unqualified AYSO!

278. Saviour Machine Saviour Machine I


November 11, 2010low5point3 comments

SAVIOUR MACHINE I (1996) Saviour Machine Saviour Machine is easily the most important and influential goth and theatrical band in Christian Music history. Lead vocalist Eric Clayton created an aura and image that was completely original and equally compelling. There was simply nothing else like it, especially at the level at which it was presented. Clayton, along with guitarist brother Jeff, released their first nationally recognized album, the self-titled release under review here. Released on a Frontline subsidiary label, the album drew critical acclaim and intense scrutiny by the bookstore. Oddly it was never the music, the lyrics or even the album cover, it was the painted white face and jewel affixed to the forehead of Clayton in photos. Claims of Eastern mysticism or occult tendencies floursihed and the record company struggled to calm the flames. (Though it should be noted that the song Legion did cause quite a furor with the lyrics the Dragon slides between her thighs repeated often). The record, though, is an amazing collection of goth rock with a very distinct classical or symphonic metal emphasis. Operatic vocals not too far from later Undercover drive home messages gleaned from the book of Revelation, the album sounds like Scripture quotations with consistent, mature lyrics ringing with Biblical exposition. The prophetic themes would be even more a central emphasis on the ambitious series of albums known as the Legend Trilogy. The images and message presented in greater detail there are introduced here with songs about the Beast, Dragon, Ant-Christ and other popular prophetic characters and images.

The album was produced by Terry Scott Taylor though the bulk of the arrangements, imaging and vision belong squarely to Clayton and his brother. The album is very dark sounding, with symphonic keyboards giving the feel of the impending doom or coming apocalyptic nightmare. It is truly the perfect marriage of medium and message. The music and performances are so good that even personal disagreement over the interpretation of certain prophetic text has never deterred me from listening on a regular basis to this and the rest of the Saviour Machine catalog.

285. Scrolls of the Megilloth Mortification


November 11, 2010low5point1 comment

SCROLLS OF THE MEGILLOTH (1992) Mortification I love horror movies. I am not scared easily and often find humor when other jump in fear. I enjoy a good scare and my daughter and I cant wait for the opening night of Scream 4. But I never listen to Mortifications Scrolls of the Megilloth when home alone at night! The band was formed after the disbanding of the band Lightforce, which barely missed making this list. It is primarily the brainchild of bassist and vocalist Steve Rowe who would survive a bout with cancer that included a failed bone marrow transplant. They have survived changes in musical taste and countless member changes, but continue to be the most important band in the genre. This is the heaviest, loudest, fastest and most terrifying album on this listand possibly in the history of CCM. Very fast guitars that are only a notch behind the drum speed and pounding, grinding and thrashing vocals. The vocals are the most indistinguishable, unidentifiable and horror inducing ever recorded.The drumming on Eternal lamentation is some of the fastest I have ever heard. Like most death core metal albums the lyrics are filled with foreboding drama of death, pain, suicide, the occult and violence, and yet all from a very distinctly Christian perspective. Songs

deal with the reality of spiritual warfare and the dangers associated with seances and seeking the dead. The title track deals with the five scrolls of Ruth, Esther, Lamentations, Song of Slomon and Ecclesiastes that were regularly read aloud to Israel during times of festivals. Lead vocalist Steve Rowe attended Bible College and would regularly use lessons learned in the writings of his songs. One of the great ironies of the band is that Rowe is a very sweet-natured, humble and soft spoken individual, while his on stage and vocal persona could not be further from that.

286. On the Fritz Steve Taylor


November 11, 2010low5point4 comments

ON THE FRITZ (1985) Steve Taylor Steve Taylor followed up his masterpiece, Meltdown, with 1985s On the Fritz, a substantially more refined and mature rock album that was great, but did not seem to match what came before or after. Produced by Ian McDonald of Foreigner and King Crimson fame, Fritz was wider and deeper musically then Meltdown, but seems to lack the more memorable touches and possessed a few too many novelties that dont bear repeating nearly as often. The great offender on the album was Lifeboat, a song (or mini-musical sketch as it were) that must have sounded great on paper and worked well in video format, but simply is not musical enough to bear consistent repeat listening. Drive, He Said comes close, but is interesting enough and has enough of a Bowie type feel that it does not quite as much as the former. But when the album does take musical swings it hits way more often then misses and also contains some of Taylors finest and most personal songs. This Disco (Used to be a Cute Cathedral) is based on the true story of the Limelight Club in NY that was once an Episcopal Church. Musically more in line with Meltdowns manic, dance driven style, even stations adverse to playing more upbeat music added the song to their playlist.

The Ian McDonald guitar influence can be heard on the wonder title track. The song looks at a pop star that once confessed Christ but has turned his back in the faith to maintain his stature in the mainstream world. Its a Personal Thing actually sounds like something that would have worked well on the following I Predict 1990 album with the bass and keyboard driven approach and the political commentary and pre-dated Bill Clinton by nearly a decade. To Forgive remains one of Taylors finest and most personal songs. The Big Country sounding E-Bow guitar creates a very Euro sounding power pop song. The story telling here is Taylor at his best.I Manipulate and You Dont Own Me Nothing are great songs and show a progression of the artist as a songwriter out of the novelty realm. But Taylors very best may have been saved for the last song on the album. I Just Wanna Know remains Taylors most personal and confessional song in his tenure. The self-doubt and internal questioning of motives for his art are examined in full sight of the listener. It is also musically captivating and a perfect ending to a very strong album.

269. The Pillars of Humanity The Crucified


November 12, 2010low5point1 comment

THE PILLARS OF HUMANITY (1991) The Crucified Has there ever been a better thrash metal/punk album ever recorded? Seriously? This album is nearly perfect and shows a mature and powerful band at their very best and, unfortunately, at their very end. At their very beginning the band was a speed punk band and the early demos have been released and re-released over the years/ But it was with The Pillars of Humanity that the band hit their stride by merging the spped punk style with a progressive thrash metal that was just tremendous.

In a way, the band was a whos who for the genre and each member followed The Crucified with several very successful projects. Guitarist Greg Minier actual released two side projects while the band was still together with Minier and Applehead. The latter barely missed making this list and most likely deserved to be included. Bassist Jeff Bellew would start Chatterbox and later join vocalist Mark Salomon in Stavesacre. But while together for their too few releases they created and defined a genre. And with TPOH they redefined the genre and became trailblazers and the standard by which every single band within the genre would be judged. Hard, fast, heavy and amazing still able to maintain melody, hook and groove. Lyrically less evangelical and preachy than the earlier releases with more social commentary and Church indictment themes. The calls to repentance are as self directed as they are toward the lost. This one album more than just about any other from the genre is the one other musicians and band members point to as the inspiration for doing what they do. Its just that good!

273. Let the Day Begin The Call


November 11, 2010low5point3 comments

LET THE DAY BEGIN (1989) The Call I have written this elsewhere on several occasions and will repeat it again here: Michael Been was the single most impressive and passionate lead vocalist to ever grace a rock and roll stage. Others may bellow, scream and prance about, but Been could stand perfectly still and show little or no emotion and still drive me to tears with the sheer passion and believability of his voice. The rich baritone that could elevate to staggering heights of emotion has simply not been matched. I miss him Let the Day Begin was the 6th album from The Call and carried the band into the 1990s with what should have been the coming out party. Rock radio loved the title track, making it the bands

only number one single, but it just wasnt to be. It is one of the great mysteries of rock and roll music that a band like The Call could never break into the mainstream music fans consciousness despite a consistently impressive output of amazing music. This album was that one shot. It was filled with radio friendly rock music with a slight alternative twist that seemed reared and ready for success. The first four songs (Let the Day Begin, Run, Surrender and When) should have been runaway hits and appeared on several movie soundtracks. Beens history in Christian music is actually relatively unknown. His first known appearance (that I am familiar with) is playing bass on the first two Barry McGuire albums as well as being a musician for 2nd Chapter of Acts. He regularly appeared on Jesus Music/CCM albums before creating The Call and heading into a more mainstream world. But his Biblical worldview is present here and on every able he was connected with. It should not difficult to see the hope, grace and mercy that poured from his been and voice. Yes, he will be missed. Greatly!

274. Fearful Symmetry Daniel Amos (DA)


November 11, 2010low5point5 comments

FEARFUL SYMMETRY (1986) Daniel Amos (DA) It is amazing to consider that within a year the conclusion of the Alarma Chronicles will be celebrating its 25th anniversary. 25 years ago one of the most impressive, ambitious and amazing four album series came to an end with a work of sheer art. Each album was unique musically with Fearful Symmetry being the darkest, brooding and mysterious of the four. Following the significantly more new wave pop of Vox Humana, FS was shocking, intriguing andwellfearful. The majority of the album deals with darker subjects like death, pain and loss and the musical soundscape of ethereal vocals and sweeping and weeping keyboards envelope the listener in the dark cloud of the content.

That is not to say that the album is replete of hope or grace, but actually just the opposite. It is through the valley of this projects the light that does shine through appears that much brighter. Terry Scott Taylors admiration of and inspiration by William Blake is the strongest on this project. From the album title to the most haunting song, Sleep Silent Child, the album is filled with images and direct quotations from Blake. The album does close with the stunningly simple and beautiful lullaby or sorts, Beautiful One. This one hearkens back to Taylors solo projects with the sing-songy simplicity and lush keyboard strings and Taylors lilting higher register. It is the perfect ending to the chronicles as its message about the eternal hope of all Christians to find themselves in the arms of the Beautiful One upon their death. I remember when the album was released the number of complaints we received were almost exclusively related to the naked man (from the waist up) on the album cover. Those that complained obviously never listened to nor understood the content of the project or the complaints may have been drastically different. More keyboard driven and music less guitar oriented. the album reflected much of the European alternative music of the day like Depeche Mode, Alphaville, etc but also shows reflections of art rock music of Genesis and Pink Floyd. Not immediately accessible or as warmly received as the first four projects, the album eventually became regarded as one of the best of the Daniel Amos catalog.

276. Driving Nails Vigilantes of Love


November 11, 2010low5point1 comment

DRIVING NAILS (1991) Vigilantes of Love The forgotten VoL album. So many fans and critics, when discussing Bill Mallonee and Vigilantes of Love, will skip this amazing album from the early years and center discussion around the impressive Jugular and the

spell binding Killing Floor. What is missed is one of Mallonees most transparant, beautiful and intriguing albums. Like the debut this album is sparse in instrumentation with limited drums, acoustic guitar and assorted acoustic instrumental support. Its about the lyrics and the performance. And here Mallonee and crew deliver 14 brilliant musical experiences. The album also contains one of Mallonees most poignant songs of faith, the incredible title track. Here he proclaims Ive been driving the nails, firmly in your tree/Youev been talking to Your Father on behalf of mewhy do I lift the hammer up/And drive the nails in? The album starts with a unique take on abortion that it a more serious version of Steve Taylors I Blew Up the Clinic real Good. Mallonee plays the part of one so horrified by the practice that he imagines taking a molotov cocktail to a local clinic. What could drive a normally peaceful and intelligent man to this edge is an intriguing and troubling question. Mallonee makes a memorable response to the common its my body argument with You say its your body/Thats nakedly plain?But less then nine moths ago it was public domain. Ouch! Causality, Just Going Blind, Sanctuary and Shadowlands are highlights amongst stand outs. One Foot in the Grave is a brilliant song that is never tiring and remains a personal favorite two decades later. It feels little Petty-ish and probably would have been an AOR hit if Petty recorded it. This is not the only VoL album to be listed here, but it my personal favorite, though not the best. It shouldnt even need the AYSO designation since it should be painfully obvious.

264. Snakes in the Playground Bride


November 12, 2010low5point1 comment

SNAKES IN THE PLAYGROUND (1992) Bride The best Christian metal album for its time. Maybe ever. Not the heaviest. Not the most inventive or creative. Not the best produced. Just the best.

Raunchy rock and roll in the vein of Guns N Roses with Dale Thompsons most gutty or guttery(?) vocals. Production quality was actually quite stong given the limitations of most CCM metal budgets. Guitar work is fun and hook driven. But really its about the songs. Great songs! So much of Christian rock at the time (pre Tooth and Nail) was so sanitized and poorly produced to get past the gatekeeper youth pastors who were also trying to get it past the parents and keep their jobs. There was plenty of fringe bands and big hair bands but very little hard rock. This album was Brides Appetite for Destruction. Not only because of the comparisons to GnR but also because of how everything just came to gether with an amazing collection of songs, a perfect unity of focus and purpose and simply a kick ass album. Like every great rock album it sounded live and real. With this album Bride also enlisted a serious A-list of guests on the album. Dez Dickerson, Rick Elias, Rick Florian, Peter Furler and others all make contributions. There was serious preproduction owrk on this album as every song seems to be a perfect fit without a single dud. Even the ballad I Miss the Rain works without sounding too much like the normal Cinderella or Poison power ballad. A great album filled with a ton of hits that actually still sounds great nearly two decades later.

249. Out of the Grey Out of the Grey


November 18, 2010low5point6 comments

OUT OF THE GREY (1991) Out of the Grey One of the best debut albums in CCM history, Out of the Gerys self-titled released was so out of the ordinary for mainstream CCM as to make one wonder how why they signed to such a major label as Sparrow. Husband and wife duo Christine and Scott Dente made a great career of thoughtful, intelligent and stirring music.

Scott is a very underrated guitar player (acoustic or electric) and Christines voice is both diverse and consistent. I saw Scott play with Phil Keaggy and Scott did more than just hold his own with the legend. Christines voice will sometimes (especially here) draw comparisons to Over the Rhine and The Innocence Mission, with less lilt and more punch. The pop and radio friendly songs are very good, but it is on the more adventurous tunes that the depth and creativity really shows. Write My Life has the previously mentioned Innocence Mission feel and matches vocal and music perfectly. Remember this continues to sound fresh and He Is Not Silent is nothing short of brilliant. Literally one could make a mention of every song here and find something worthy to discuss. there is not one forgettable song with only Dance not quit fitting with the rest of the album, though it is a good song on its own. Their career has not kept up the steam the debut built up and there has not been a new recording in several years, but one should not think they are not making music or out of the industry. Both continue to appear of friends albums and Scotts guitar work can still be heard on occasional releases. That all should not discount just how great an initial release this album is.

251. Something New Under the Son Larry Norman


November 18, 2010low5point7 comments

SOMETHING NEW UNDER THE SON (1981) Larry Norman Though recorded in 1976 this classic album sis not really see the light of day until 1981. By then Solid rock has pretty much folded and this Solid Rock release introduced Phydeaux Records, though the album retains a Solid Rock release number. At the time of the release Norman was the only artists remaining on Solid Rock. Recorded and released amidst a time of turmoil, this album is considered by many to be one of Normans most auto-biographical, even though Norman disagreed with that assertion. Suffice it so say, the album does remain one of the great blues albums not only of Normans illustrative

career but in the history of CCM. Gritty, street, and rough and tough, the album sparked controversy as a result of everything from the album cover tot he last note. It also sparked creative juices of artists all over Christendom. The album starts with Hard Luck and Bad News, a groovin blues tune about a despondent crooner whose life is falling apart at the seams. Great Jon Linn guitar work punctuates the tune with an uncommon ferocity within the genre. Throughout Normans career there have been constant comparisons to The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Here and on the rest of the record, those comparisons take on a whole new relevance. Feelin So Bad follows a stalking lover who discovers his true love has found a new man. Jesus. I Feel Like Dying, one of the heaviest Norman compositions add The Doors and psychedelia to the above comparisons. Born to Be Unlucky shows the Normans great grasp of blues and the lyrical flow it demands. The centerpiece of the concept album is Watch What Youre Doing, which more than any other song shows Normans dry wit and caustic humor. Finding humor amidst the turmoil of a difficult life, Norman details the foibles of several characters whose sin and worries consume them. There is a great guitar and harmonic work on this one. Nightmare #97 introduces Phydeaux in its opening line and shows Norman to be the great storyteller he was. The album closes with Let the Tape Keep Rolling, the most clearly and admitted auto-biographical song on the album.The retelling of the early recording and the birth of Normans musical career became a huge live song with extended versions recorded and released. Its also the most commercially viable song on the record and a total Rolling Stone rip! In the long run the album may remain one of Normans most consistent works and a true classic.

245. Homeboys Adam Again


November 22, 2010low5point3 comments

HOMEBOYS (1990) Adam Again

When a band with only five studio releases is able to have four placed on a list like this, it says something about the band that is beyond impressive. And the thing is, I am not a huge Adam Again fan stylistically, but utterly recognize the Gene Eugene Andrusco and crew created some of the most impressive music ever recorded over that very short five album career. And i dont just mean the most impressive music ever recorded in CCMbut anywhere! The title track kicks off things with such an unforgettable groove and some impressive and memorable lyrics. Eugenes is master storyteller here and anyone who remembers their youth and childhood will find something here to reflect upon. The loss of friendship and innocence is difficult and real. Obviously raised with a love for blues, R&B and cool funk/soul, Eugene was able to capture those grooves and place them firmly into the heart of alternative music. Often compared vocally to Michael Stipe and, in the early days, musically to The talking heads, on Homeboys there is more jazz, funk and heavier rock influences than either of those comparisons. Very few bands with the above comparisons and influences would be able to create a song like Hide Away. Mellow without ever being soft there is something more Van Morrison like here and it is utterly brilliant with a perfectly included violin accompaniment. The vocal passion in the albums closer, No Regrets, again points to why this band was so amazing. Eugene and then wife, Riki Michelle, join forces here to bring the message home. The most auto-biographical record for Eugene, Homeboys is a classic along with two more that will follow.

228. My Poor Generation The All Saved Freak Band


November 30, 2010low5point1 comment

MY POOR GENERATION (1973) The All Saved Freak Band Described as a collection of dysfunctional misfits with musical taste ranging from psychedelic hillbilly soul and zydeco influenced reefer garage rock. Harpsichord, dulcimer, piano,

woodwinds and the amazing Glenn Schwartz on guitar. Schwartz was late of Pacific Gas & Electric and could play with the best of them. But despite his name headlining the marquee, the band was really the brainchild of controversial hippy-Pastor Larry Hill and Joe Markko. This is about as essential Jesus Music as has ever been released. It not only is great artistic achievement, it so defines a generation musically and ministerially that any true fan or historian of Jesus Music can not be without this classic album. Classic rocki and classical music fuse with violin, cello and other orchestral instruments taking center stage in a band that comprised anywhere from 10 to 14 members at any given time. As much a community as rock band. The opening track, Elder White is reminiscent of the bluesier side of CCR. The song never kicks in to a full fledged rocker and that is what is so compelling. The listening keeps waiting for the big chorus that never comes, just a plodding, mesmerizing blues tune tribute to the civil rights movement. Great Victory is a boogie blues tune that shows off Schwartzs guitar work. His ability to stay within the vibe of a song while simultaneously taking over is unparalleled. There was no fear of jamming too much here and Schwartz is more than up to the task. I would have loved to seen this live to experience what Im sure was a Grateful Dead time jam experience. The same can be said for the rollicking Daughter of Zion. The band and the community remained recluse and controversial during their decade of music and ministry. Schwartzs family kidnapped him in an attempt to deprogram him and pull him out of what they considered a cult. The intervention failed and Schwartz returned to the band in time to record the album, Brainwashed. Many consider Brainwashed one of the finest works in Jesus Music history and quite rare. A quick google of the band will find one immersed in the rich and relatively unknown history of Jesus Music. One can also read of the tragedy and controversy surrounding this amazing band, a collection of misfits that somehow formed one of the great Jesus Music bands of the 1970s.

233. October U2
November 24, 2010low5point7 comments

OCTOBER (1981) U2 Considered to be U2s most Christian sounding album, October is a stunningly sad sounding album, with visions of the Fall and a seemingly orange and grey sound to the album. It is also beautiful, haunting and unforgettable. The only hit single from the album, Gloria, and the praise driven Rejoice remain the most upbeat on an album that, in an odd way, is almost worshipful at times. Three of the band members were intensely involved with a religious organization that caused them to consider what to do with the band and the content of the albums. Where the predecessor, Boy, dealt with the life of youth and the follow-up, War, shows them as adults living and shouting in the real world, it is October that serves as this transitional album. The religious overtones are more upfront here than on nearly any other entire recording in their long career. the struggles of faith and fame, sin and sanctification take center stage as the band worked through these life lessons through the cathartic songwriting process. Ironically, it is also this album in which many of the lyrics were taken from the bands hotel room and Bono found himself improvising on many songs including Gloria. Bono once joked about the difficulties of making a sophomore release for any band, but how they added to the difficulty by making it about God. October is listed as the poorest selling album in the bands history and many have ignored what a great album it really is. There is so much growth as musicians and songwriters on this album as The Edge incorporated piano into many songs and the band delivers a diversity of musical expressions.Most notable on the back to back Tomorrow and October. Atmospheric guitars and stark solo piano make these songs stand out for their simplicity and haunting qualities. It was with this album, though, that many young Christians discovered the band and, as a result, hold a very special place in many CCM rock fans hearts.

234. Sticks and Stones The 77s


November 24, 2010low5point12 comments

STICKS AND STONES (1990) The 77s How great of a band is The 77s? Well, how many bands could release a collection of rejects, B-sides, cast-offs, demos and throwaways and still have it be one of the best album released for that year and one of the best albums of all time? Pretty much only The 77s. After the dissolving of Exit Records and the greatest shame in the history of CCM rock music (the Island 77s not becoming the biggest album at the time), Mike Roe and mates moved to Broken Records, headed by Ojo Taylor of Undercover, released a bunch of demos and rejects and made one of the most enjoyable and listenable albums in their storied career. It is actually one of the most commercially pleasing and accessible albums Roe has been involved with. Great alternative pop with killer hooks and a ton of memorable songs. In fact, the lead track (MT) made its way onto popular teen television show, Beverly Hills, 90210. But that was not the only hit song from the album. Christian rock radio jumped all over Nowhere Else and the reworked This Is the Way Love Is. But it is the more self-indulgent songs that became long standing concert favorites and true 77s classics. Perfect Blues had been a long standing live favorite that finally saw the light of day on this album and shows Roes mastery of guitar in all styles. Dont, This Way is one of the most haunting and beautiful songs of Roes career and is also one of the best live songs the band performs. Here, its Roes subtlety as a musician that shines. Just stunning and mesmerizing. God Sends Quails is anything but subtle and shows Roes appreciation for the 60s and 70s psychedelic blues, jam bands and would even appeal to fans of Glass Harp and Blind Faith. Utterly brilliant!

237. Flowers in the Rain Mad At The World


November 23, 2010low5point3 comments

FLOWERS IN THE RAIN (1988) Mad at The World After the initial success of the debut album from MATW, the band followed up with Flowers in the rain, that, though still utilizing the keyboard synth sound of the debut, comes off a little more organic and rock driven with more of an emphasis on guitar. The album also featured superior songwriting and more diversity. The first track, Fearfully and Wonderfully, sounds the most like the debut while the title track that follows uses electric guitar as the primary instruments and hints at a direction change that would dominate several of the following releases. Lyrically the band here began to explore a common theme of reaching out to those on the fringe and disenfranchised. Self-image and the need to discover where true self-esteem comes from would dominate the messages on this album (and others as well). Why deals with the above in a more questioning manner than some were comfortable with and I remember some bookstores questioning the songs ultimate message. Of course them missed the point is that the Church (and those that make up the Church) are as guilty of the sin of ridicule those who are different and causing the disenfranchising as the world is. The album also separates itself from other MATW album with use of the acoustic piano and ballads. No Mistakes looks at the issue of abortion in a beautiful and haunting musical backdrop. I Dont Want To Go There incorporates the acoustic guitar and Bowie-ish style that would come back toward the end of the MATW recording history. The final track, Dancing On Your Grave, is more Undercover and Billy Idol than Depeche Mode and possibly one of the best songs in the MATW catalog. More aggressive vocally and heavier musically than anything else on the album, it clearly points to a musical direction that would be explored on the following releases. Ultimately its the diversity on the album that makes it suck a treasure and strong release.

204. Squint Steve Taylor

December 9, 2010low5point10 comments

SQUINT (1993) Steve Taylor It has been 17 years since Squint, the last of Steve Taylors recordings, was released. I, for one, say Its time for a follow up already! Very few artists on Christian music that have been silent for two decades are ever able to maintain the loyal fan base that Taylor has preserved. His timely and timeless music seems to transcend time and generations despite the rather dated musical expressions. Squint, though, stands out as possibly the record that sounds the least tied to a musical date. Its the one album with no musical expiration date. Perhaps because it didnt sound like anything during any time so no one can really pigeon hole into a time frame. More musically experimental, more musically alternative rock and more musical in general, Squint seems to also glean form the musical heritage of his former band, Chagall Guevara. Highlights from the album includewellthe whole album. Though every song is not the masterpiece that others may be, there are no fast forward tunes in the bunch. Even the utterly unique and oddly bizarrely wonderful Cash Cow does not spoil with time. Where Taylor does excel on this album more than on previous releases is on the more straight ahead rock anthem songs. The Lament of Desmond RG Underwood-Frederick IV, Bannerman, Smug and Curses do not suffer from the novelty label that previous songs have. That should be seen as stating that the album lacks the normal taylor humor, but rather, far from it. The humor is more pointed, not as broad and, in many ways, more effective. But a real highlight and one for the ages is Jesus Is For Losers. Taylors most interesting melody, aura and strongest vocal in his solo career make the song a classic. I was speaking to a friend in the music back in 1993 about this album and he (an artist himself) mentioned that Jesus is for Losers is the type of song every artists strives to write. I would agree. This is not the first nor the last release from Taylor to make this list. If I slow down, maybe there may be time to add a new one it.

Probably not!

207. Have Yourself Committed Bryan Duncan


December 8, 2010low5point6 comments

HAVE YOURSELF COMMITTED (1985) Bryan Duncan After over a decade as a member and lead vocalist for the seminal Jesus Music/Christian Rock band, Sweet Comfort, Bryan Duncan recorded the first of several incredibly popular solo projects with Have Yourself Committed. Actually sounding like nothing Sweet Comfort ever did musically Duncan branched off in a new musical direction. More pop, funk and blue-eyed soul than rock, HYC became an instant best-seller and eventual classic in CCM The Manhattan Transfer styled title track became an instant hit and sounded like nothing else in CCM at the time. the most Sweet Comfort sounding tune, Darkness is falling, shows the more rock oriented side while Maybe This Time sounds like something straight from Toto IV. But like the Sweet Comfort days it is still Duncans vocals on the ballads that just stand out as utterly unforgettable. A Childs Love would be a long running radio favorite and deservedly so. The loving fatherly ode to his child is compared to the love expressed by the Heavenly Father to His children. Its here that Duncans passionate soul is best heard. Surprisingly there is only one other ballad. This was such a pleasant and unexpected pop delight in 1985. So much in CCM at the time was either new wave or inspirational and pop music was abandoned or poorly executed. Here we have an example of how pop music can be articulated powerfully and professionally. But more importantly there lyrical content did not resort to tried and true Christian jingoisms and, as a result, created a more lasting and significant album.

209. Detonation Bloodgood


December 8, 2010low5point2 comments

DETONATION (1987) Bloodgood If the only thing going for the metal masterpiece is the album cover it would probably still find a way onto this list! This what metal is all about from album cover to the last note that abruptly terminate this classic Christian white metal album. Bloodgood ranks alongside Barren Cross and Stryper amongst the most important and influential Christian metal bands. Bloodgood was the more mature of the bands most musically and lyrically as band members Les Carlsen (vocals), Michael Bloodgood (bass), David Zaffiro (guitar) and Mark Welling (drums) had been out of High School for a while and had actually lived real life before venturing full time into musical ministry. Less glam and big hair metal and more Judas Priest and Queensryche, Bloodgood employed a more rock and progressive metal lead by vocalists Les Carlsens raspy vocals. Bloodgood was also a better live band employing a more theatrical approach than many of their Christian contemporaries. As ,many great songs as there are on this album it really comes down to the back to back miniopera of Crucify and Messiah. In the first Carlsen plays the part of Pilate in the trial of Jesus. On stage Carlsen would reenact the events while performing the song as the tortured Pilate relents to the demands of the crowd screaming crucify Him!. It contains Carlsens finest vocals and is true Christian metal classic. The song immediately feeds into the bluesier and even more emotive, Messiah. Here Carlsen is like the Apostle John whose hopelessness at the death of Christ is changed to an evangelistic spokesperson at His resurrection. The songs work perfectly back to back and create a perfect one two punch. Both received strong rock radio airplay and many stations played them back to back regularly. The band would become more commercial with each release, but never would they match the results or response of Detonation.

212. This Time Thru DeGarmo & Key

December 8, 2010low5point7 comments

THIS TIME THRU (1978) DeGarmo & Key The very first album I ever bought with my own money. As a 13 year old taking care of a neighbors lawn I saved money to begin regularly purchasing my own music. The first album I bought at The Pink Lady Christian Bookstore (yeah, I knowa story for a different post) was DeGarmo & Keys This Time Thru. I would buy it several more times until it finally found release on CD over a decade later. Built upon the blues, D&K originally created progressive rock with a decidedly intelligent approach. Eddie DeGarmos Hammond organ and Dana Keys Robin Trower like blues guitar mastery lead a band that was musically light years ahead of most CCM at the time. But not only did they write good songs and perform them well, D&K also brought production values and artistic ingenuity into an industry built primarily on an evangelism first mandate. Here we have instrumental intros, progressive changes, musical diversity and a never ending desire for quality. Emmanuel starts with a gentle, classical acoustic guitar intro before Keys heavier blues guitar rips through and takes the listener by the throat. the later recorded live version would be a nearly 10-minute instrumental delight. Addey follows as a strong acoustic ballad that would be rerecorded later and remains a classic. Easily a Top 50 song of all time. Another ballad that could crack that list would be Alleyways of strife. Here it is Keys vocals that shine brightest. The more country influenced Only the Meek Survive would have fit nicely on the first two Daniel Amos albums. To Far, Too Long fits the initial description of progressive rock with many instrumental breaks, time signature changes and creative musical direction changes. The cover of the classic Wayfaring Stranger is an album highlight and contains some of keys best guitar playing on the entire album as well as giving DeGarmo moments to shine. The album, though, is built around In the Days of Thy Youth/Chase the Wind. Though not a medley in the truest sense the former instrument introduction leads directly into the latters

classic and progressive rock masterpiece. Everything works on this song. Lyrically, musically and creatively this is D&K at their very best. Starting slow, building and then going full force into a killer progressive rock song that sounds like one written by Kerry Livgren. The same can be said for the album closing title track. Here again the more progressive influences shine. In fact, the entire side Two of the album ranks amongst the best sides to an album in CCM history. Several years later many initial fans would complain about the musical direction change with the more synthesized approach, and it is the passion for this initial debut that caused such displeasure amongst the long term fans. Brilliant from first note to last, i\any reasl fan of Christian Rock cannot be without the album.

215. Third Day Third Day


December 2, 2010low5point1 comment

THIRD DAY (1996) Third Day While working for Diamante Distribution in the mid-90s I attended a sales conference in which Grey Dot Records was presenting some new releases for the upcoming quarter. At the end of the presentation they loaded the whole team up and took us to a concert hall a few miles away from the hotel. We were told they were waiting to present their big release later that night. What we actually went to was an album release party for Gray Dots newest signing, Third Day. The album had been out for a while independently and we were going to finally have the chance to distribute it nationally. The band rocked the house and entire staff was beyond excited about having our next big release to promote. A few weeks later we were told the band had signed to Reunion Records and that the album would not be released through us!

Despite that I still find it to be one of the greatest debut album in Christian rock annals and remains a favorite. There are just so many great songs on this one project and the production is huge and beefy. The guitars are not hidden and there appeared to be no fear at rocking without being metal. The CCM buying responded favorably and made it an instant hit, eventually reaching gold status. Even mainstream radio responded favorably by making Nothing At All a Top 40 hit. But the album is filled with hits in their southern fried rock meets Pearl Jam meets Hootie and the Blowfish style. The latter qualifier is not as prevalent on this release as it is on others though the vocal similarities sometimes will swerve that way. Consuming Fire, Thief, Forever and Mama are all rockers that retain their freshness over the years. There are some strong ballads as well as Praise Song, a song that would hint to the bands future popularity in the modern worship circles. It should be noted that Worship has always been a major part of the bands concerts and does not appear to be the money grab other artists may be accused of.

217. Glass Harp Glass Harp


December 2, 2010low5point7 comments

GLASS HARP (1970) The single greatest and most often repeated urban legend in CCM history involves a supposed encounter with Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Carson in which it is claimed that Jimi Hendrix claimed that Phil Keaggy was the greatest guitar player in the world. Or maybe it was Dick Cavett and Eric Clapton or perhaps Jimmy Page and Its important to note that the only reason the fabled legend has continued to exist (despite Keaggys constant denials) is because Phil Keaggy is one of the greatest guitar players in the world. In fact, the proliferation of such a myth can only seem plausible because o0f Keaggys sheer mastery of the instrument and his incredible creativity. Now it should be noted that even though the album in question was recorded in the famed Hendrix stomping grounds, Electric Lady Studios, the legendary guitar player passed away two

weeks before Glass Harp began recording and Keaggy does not believe Hendrix ever heard Keaggy play. In spite of the legends questionable validity, it must nopt be discounted what amazing music Keaggy created as part of Glass Harp. One of the original power trios in rock music they are often labeled as a psychedelic or progressive rock band when in fact they are closer to a jam band popularized by The Grateful Dead, Cream, Blind Faith and most recently Phish. Noted for musical stylistic fusions and original improvisations, Glass harp would and should be considered one of the pioneers of the movement. Built around three very strong musicians, most notably Keaggy, the three albums created by Glass harp are astounding works of creativity, originality and musical mastery. The debut stands out for the more aggressive rock sounds and for leading off with what should be considered the Stairway to Heaven of Christian music, Can You See Me. Starting slow and building into two separate instrumental breaks lead by Keaggys sizzling and soaring guitar work. It can not be understated just how great this song is and how well it should be regarded by CCM music historians. The whole record is brilliant and moving. It was also very, very Christian in its content. There are bold declarations of faith and and Biblical themes despite the placement on a secular label. Oddly enough, this album is often overlooked when people refer to that which can be considered the first Christian Rock album. The band would record two more album and right about when many thought they were going to break through Keaggy left to concentrate on writing more distinctly Christian songs for the burgeoning Christian music industry. The band has reunited on a few occassions over the years, including one night immortalized in the song, Wish You Were There, from Keaggys Town to Town LP.

218. On Rock Daniel Band


December 1, 2010low5point4 comments

ON ROCK (1982)

Daniel Band Sometime in the Summer of 1982 I went to see someone at a Saturday Night concert at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. I have no recollection as to who the somebody was that night, but have distinct and impressive images of the unknown opening band, Canadas Daniel Band. At that time the debut album had not been released. The next day I went by the Calvary Chapel store and asked if they knew when the album was coming out. they had no idea what I was talking about. But the band members happened to be in the store and overheard my conversation. they followed me out and told me they had just received some advance cassette copies of the album and gave me one for free! It would not be the only copy of the album on cassette I would own a I ruined a few by constantly playing it for friends at school and church. This was it! A real hard rock band with great production, blazing guitar solos and huge hooks. Often mistakenly compared to Rush, the sound is much more Boston, Triumph, First Strike and Foreigner. The album kicks off with Creator, a straight ahead rocker in the vein of Triumph. Like most of the album the lyrics are straight ahead and blatant evangelical statements. Nothing too creative or edgy here. But what is lacking in depth is blown away by passion and energy. The second song, and first single, is Im Sorry. Starting with an acoustic intro before the obligatory heavy, crunching guitars. Great power ballad that just works perfectly. KYMS played it for a short while.In the Sky has a Black Crowes riff and Free From Sin is the heaviest of the bunch with great guitar work. There are really no poor cuts and the album and the final cut deserves special consideration. Somebody Loves You was great live that night and that image still sticks me. A rollicking southern rock tinged kicker that seemed about 15 minutes live with great solos from all band members. The album has been reissued on CD but with a new cover that I never really appreciated. I have yet to figure out the fascination of new covers on classic albums. The sound board lit up to spell the band name is classic.

220. Infidels Bob Dylan


December 1, 2010low5point2 comments

INFIDELS (1983) Bob Dylan I received a copy of Infidels for my birthday in October of 1983. At the time it was the 7th Bob Dylan album in my collection, which is pretty good considering I was just 18 and dire-hard (as much as an 18-year-old could be) fan of Bob Dylan. I wrote a raving review for it in my College newspaper. Nearly 30 years I believe I may love it more than i did then. Easily one of the finest produced albums in Dylans career, Dire Staits guitarist Mark Knopfler created an audio delight with just enough edge in the right places and really encouraged Dylans best vocal performance recorded. Knopfler plays guitar and his trademark soothing, full-throated tones matched up with Mick Jones great guitar style. Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar provided the amazing rhythm section. Considered by some to be included in the post-Christian era of Dylans career following three more religiously tinged projects (some of which will appear here). The truth is the album is no more or less religious than its predecessor (Shot of Love) and contains a more mature approach to faith and the world than the previous albums more first love approach. Songs take on a more political, ecological, personal and relational setting. But so did songs from the three previous albums. Sweetheart Like You is not too far removed from the same imagery found in Covenant Woman. In fact, here he mentions that the subject has a Father with a house with many mansions. There are images of wise men following a star and Satan appearing as a Man of Peace. The album contain 8 songs (one was controversially dropped by the record company) and 6 of them are among my Top 50 Dylan songs of all time. The first is the lead track, Jokerman, that features most prominently the Knopfler guitar style. The song also features some of Dylans best vocals. The last two songs are simply stunning! I and I shows Knopflers exquisite fret work and Dylans penchant for stirring Biblical imageryno man see My face a lives. Couched within the struggles of a relationship and the depravity and selfishness of the human condition.

The album closer may be the most beautiful song Dylan has ever penned. Dont Fall Apart On Me Tonight is a gorgeous call of a lover to his beloved to forgive and continue to love. Musically melodic, lyrically compelling and vocally yearning. It may appear to be a call for a lover to stay but it actually is more selfless then self-gratifying. It is a real love song in the truest sense of the word. Aaron Neville would cover it later and make a moderate hit out of the song. Like the artist himself I refuse to categorize his career in any way other than to state each album must be considered on its own merit. And on its own, Infidels is a must own even for those who are not Dylan fans and is easily one of the finest in his career.

221. Behind The Eyes Amy Grant


December 1, 2010low5point10 comments

BEHIND THE EYES (1997) Amy Grant I have somewhat subconsciously divided Amy Grants career into three different phases: CCM Gold Girl, Mainstream Superstar and Post-Divorce singer-songwriter. The first phase takes her through Unguarded, while it is with Behind the Eyes, that the third stage seems to really kick in. After several well received mainstream releases, Behind the Eyes somberly walks through the pain and struggles associated with divorce, loss and pain, multiplied by doing so in such a public industry. The great power of the record is the undying optimistic presences that permeates the sorrow and loss. This is most notable in Like I Love You which with a little tweaking could have been a huge country hit. Like most of the album there is a clear Nashvegas feel with a country feel amidst the powerful pop sensibility. The album is more acoustic feeling than any album since Lead Me On and that always fit Grants earthy vocal best. Takes a Little Time became the biggest hit from the album and remains one of Grants strongest performances, especially in a live setting. The content serves as a great reminder for those struggling to rebuild their broken lives.

A personal favorite is Cry a River which is my favorite Grant penned tune in the post-divorce era. Its floating melody and melancholy feel are captivating. The album closer Somewhere Down the Road perfectly sums up the entire theme of the album in a fitting fashion.

222. Human Sacrifice Vengeance (Rising)


December 1, 2010low5point4 comments

HUMAN SACRIFICE (1988) Vengeance Before having to change the name of the band for contractual reasons to Vengeance Rising, the band Vengeance released their debut album on Frontline records and CCM has never recovered. Well before similar bands would become the norm, Vengeance burst on to the scene with controversy exploding at every turn. From the graphic cover, to the demonic growling lead vocals, to the scary images of the band, there was just never a moment of rest for Frontline Sales reps. Despite all that the album soldand sold VERY well. Lyrically no one could complain about the straight ahead, theologically sound and very conservative evangelical content. In fact, as an apologetic for the band I used to read the lyrics to the bookstore owners and have them try and guess which Frontline artist had penned the songs. Not a single one got it right. Thrash, grind core, death metal. Whatever label it was given could not do justice to describe the audio assault the album unleashed on the listener. Heavy, fast, pounding and oh, so loud! The oddest thing listening back again for this review is just how much melody is there. If not for the vocals it is not too far removed from Metallica, especially on songs like Mulligans Stew and White Throne. Great drumming and guitar work abound and are prevelant on every single song. Those more familiar and attached to the genre will obviously complain the album should be higher. They may be right.

I will not deal in detail here with the demise of the band but it is a sad story. Several band members went on to form the short lived Die Happy while lead vocalist Roger Martinez turned to satanism and eventually atheism.

224. Michael W. Smith Project Michael W. Smith


December 1, 2010low5point8 comments

MICHAEL W. SMITH PROJECT (1983) Michael W Smith It is not very often that a traditional songwriter for others steps up to the microphone and becomes the most successful male artist within their genre. But that is exactly what Michael W Smith with his debut in 1983. After writing countless number one hits for artist like Amy Grant, Sandy Patti and Bill Gaither and playing keyboards for Amy Grant on her hugely successful Age to Age tour, Michael W Smith signed with reunion Records to record his debut. Initially criticized for struggling vocals, his less than perfect vocalizing played against nearly meticulous musical compositions and somehow the two work together. Combining classical music with a current pop styling Smith stood out amongst the crowd with a totally unique sound. I have often wondered if Smith was initially inspired by the likes of ELO and the Alan Parsons Project with the creative keyboard, classically influenced and jazz infused musical expressions. Whether starting with a synthesizer rendition of Sonata in D Major or the synthesized orchestral sound of Could he Be the Messiah, there is always appears to be a love for the technological combined with the tradition. But the album would always be remembered for one songFriends. The most played, and possibly most overplayed song in the history of CCM that even public High Schools would use the song for their graduation ceremonies. A very simple song written quickly for a friend that was moving away, the song became the biggest song in CCM history. Interestingly it took quite a while for the song to hit as it was actually released a second time before radio really jumped on it. I remember a top radio programmer stating that the song just didnt have the it factor to make an impact.

Great Is the Lord would become a worship and choral classic as well. The more orchestral arrangement made the song a huge Church worship song and a popular favorite among choir directors wishing to add a more contemporary song to their choirs musical makeup. Two albums from Smith make this countdown (obviously not a countdown conducted by CCM Magazine) and are totally and completely different offerings. This also shows the depth of musical and artist talent.

226. So Long Ago the Garden Larry Norman


December 1, 2010low5point4 comments

SO LONG AGO THE GARDEN (1973) Larry Norman Though So Long Ago the Garden is the second release in the famed trilogy of Larry Norman albums, it is the first listed here. All three will be included on this list and though many consider it the weakest of the trilogy, it remains a classic and an incredible record on its own. The album also contains Normans most controversial cover and least evangelical lyrics. The cover shows an apparently naked Norman with a lion superimposed over his body. There is some symbolism there that shouldnt take too much to decipher. The back cover sported a pair of snake skin boots next to an apple. Christian bookstores complained that lyrically the album was relational and not very religious in content. The truth was several songs that would appear on subsequent releases were dropped by MGM in favor of more mainstream options. The album is also very melancholy and at times sad sounding. This feel appears to perfectly match the lyrical content as songs deal with loneliness and the desire for human companionship. I have read that Norman considered SLATG his favrotie album and one of his true artistic achievements.He would compare it to Ecclesiastes thematically. There are no Shot Downs, I Wish Wed All Been Readys or Rock That Doesnt Rolls, nor are there any of the common Norman humorous ditties. Rather, the album is somber, serious and very earnest. It is also one of Normans most consistent offerings with the musical expression

staying within a framework that is not all that dissimilar from Elton Johns Captain Fantastic with the songs seeming written on piano, or at least the piano takes on a much more prominent role than on other Norman releases. The album does contain more than a just a handful of true classics like Christmastime, Baroquen Spirits and Fly, Fly, Fly. It alsol contains one of Normans finest and haunting melodies in Shes a Dancer. This tip of the hat to the Beatles is just beautiful! I remember being told when I managed a bookstore that even some 15 years later I could not carry the album. I did anyway.

227. White Horse Michael Omartian


December 1, 2010low5point6 comments

WHITE HORSE (1974) Michael Omartian A good friend, Micheal Anderson, whose album will appear later on this list was having a birthday party for his wife at a wonderful gourmet Chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills. I was seated at a table with my wife and the wonderful Hal Fishman, the late famed local news anchor in Southern California. Seated to my right, though, was a man I had admired my entire music listening life. I have met countless famous people over the years and seldom found my self starstruck. That night I was as I was seated next to Michael Omartian. Michael Omartian is easily the most renowned, decorated and successful individual in Christian music. Most of that as a producer in mainstream music for everyone from Michael McDonald and Christopher Cross to Donna Summer and Rod Stewart. Grammys, Doves and Billboard awards cover the portions of the wall not occupied Gold and Platinum albums. He, along with Quincy Jones, produced the most successful single in history, We are the World. In 1974 Omartian released his first solo album on ABC/Dunhill and later that year on Words Myrrh label. I was easily the finest produced album the Christian music world had seen at the

time. Leaps and bounds above its contemporaries, White Horse is a majestic and stellar album that easily has earned its classic status. The album was also one of the most progressive musically any artist had released. Fusing jazz, funk gospel and progressive rock sounds very current for the time with some of the finest musicians in the world, White Horse was a revelation and a game changer like nothing the industry had ever seen. Am added plus is that the album is also filled with wonderful songs, both lyrically creative and musically stunning. Omartian collected a line-up of supporting musicians second to none. Larry Carlton, David Hungate, David Kemper, Dean Parks and a host of others lent their talents to this amazing project, Omartians voice has touches of Peter Gabriel and Neil Young and he weaves through musical genres as diverse as those he has produced. Touched of Genesis, Yes, Kansas combine with pop, gospel and jazz fusion. Lyrically the album did not reflect the simplistic evangelical approach which was the norm for the time. perhaps the mainstream release did not limit Omartians content and his wife, Stormie, provided the bulk of the lyrics. The lead track, Jeremiah, walks through the themes of the minor prophets and relates them both to the historical setting and modern application. The Steely Dan like groove of Fat City shows off Omartians stellar keyboard work and an amazing brass section. The title track is a seven minute epic masterpiece. Starting slow and building into an amazing instrumental section driven by Omartians keyboard work and Larry Carlton and Dean Park guitar work. The industry had never seen anything like it and it would be quite some time for the rest of the industry to catch up.

193. Crimson and Blue / Blue Phil Keaggy


January 26, 2011low5point6 comments

CRIMSON AND BLUE / BLUE (1993) Phil Keaggy

Born out of the same studio sessions and featuring many of the same songs and all of the same musicians I am including the separately released albums Crimson and Blue and Blue as one title. The former was created for and released to the Christian market while the latter was released into the mainstream market with a different lyrical focus, despite sharing several songs from its counterpart. After releasing one of the most beautiful acoustic/instrumental albums in his career (Beyond Nature), Keaggy followed with what is probably heaviest rock release outside of his work with Glass Harp. Its notable that Glass Harp drummer John Sferra reunites with Keaggy on the album and many believe served as the impetus for the return to a more rock edged project. No matter the reason, it was a Godsend! Recorded virtually live in the studio with live guitar solos played with the band the album is filled with memorable rock and Keaggy best and most subdued rock vocals. Less Paul McCartney here than on many other releases. The album also contains Keaggys best rock guitar work since Time in the reworking of the traditional blues number, John the Revelator. If this song was the only worthy tune it would still allow this album to be included. Its that good! But fortunately the whole project is impressive. Much can be attributed to the whos who list of supporters including Phil Madeira, Lynn Nichols, Jimmy A., Ashley Cleveland, Charlie Peacock, John Mark Painter, Wade Jaynes (Chagall Guevara) and an uncredited Steve Taylor. The live energy in the studio clearly paid off on this raw and passionate project. Blue would remove a few songs and add three including a cover of Badfingers Baby Blue. One notable song of inclusion is All Our Wishes. The song recounts the loss of a child and was written musically back when Keaggy was in the 9th grade. Many fans of Keaggy have complained over the years that he never shows off his ridiculous skills on his albums like his live performances are noted for, but here that is not the case. It kind of feels like there record company let Phil make a Keaggy album. we, the listeners, are the beneficiaries. Hmm, maybe this should have been listed higher!

195. Love Liberty Disco Newsboys


January 17, 2011low5point7 comments

LOVE LIBERTY DISCO (1990) Newsboys The Newsboys ended the 1990s with a pseudo-concept album whose conception was more musical than lyrical or thematic. It also finds its way on to many Newsboys fans most hated list a well as most beloved. I fall in the latter category, but that is also coming from someone who is not a very big Newsboys fan. relying heavily on 70s influences and, yes, disco, to educate the musical palette, the album still sounds like Newsboys, but with more groove and fun. Musically some of the most consistent quality writing and execution, the album followed the hit machine, Step Up to the Microphone and I applaud the band for taking this artistic leap at a time the SUTTM Part 2 could have been an epic best-seller. LLD is the anti-SUTTM in that it is nor filled with radio radio hits like its predecessor, but rather a collection of 70s influenced musical delights. But there is also a sense that the band is taking it all very seriously and respectfully. There is an Oasis-like feel of other-worldly musical experiments that make the hit makers appear more like a band than on many other recordings. There is more Cheap Trick here than Bee Gees, and the world is better for it. Beautiful Sound is a great song no matter what band or album. Love Liberty Disco is the most obvious nod to the disco era with the great funky string arrangement and contains some of Furlers better and more subdued vocals. The band would follow with a significantly more straight ahead rock effort with Thrive, and many fans were happy for that fact. But LLD stands out for its originality and fearless presence. Its one of the few albums from that era that deserve repeated listening.

198. Dont Wait for the Movie White Heart


January 7, 2011low5point7 comments

DONT WAIT FOR THE MOVIE (1986) White Heart Birthed in 1982 as a rock side project for many members of the Bill Gaither Vocal Band, White Heart went on to be one of the most influential and successful artists of the 80s and 90s. Early releases featured inspirational icon Steve Green on lead vocals followed by Scott Douglas (on albums two and three) who would later be convicted of sexual assault. This would have killed most bands, but hidden amongst the bands roadies was young aspiring vocalist named Rick Florian. Florian made his band debut on Dont Wait for the Movie and took the band to a whole new level of success. The Toto pop and inspirational safe ballads that populated the first three albums was replaced with a more Journey, REO Speedwagon rock sound.It also marked an escape from Home Sweet Home records to Sparrow. Initially the album received some pretty strong negative reviews and reception. Over time the position softened and now the album is considered one of the most important rock releases of the era along side the better works of Petra, Sevant and AD. Though not as critically admired as Freedom or Redemption. it remains one of the most successful and cherished albums in the bands career. It also marked the bands first overwhelming reception on Christian rock and CHR radio. Fly Eagle Fly and How Many Times became Christian radio staples well past the shelf life of the album.

134. Awaiting Your Reply Resurrection Band


February 24, 2011low5point4 comments

AWAITING YOUR REPLY (1978) Resurrection Band Our thousand dollar winner will be announced two hours from now, so hand in there as we play music byResurrection Band? Howd that get in the stacks? Oh well, heeeeeres hopin And so the world was introduced Resurrection Band by mock rock DJ Jolly Jonah Jamison. What would follow would literally change the face of Christian music forever. A Led Zeppelin blues grooved guitar attack and pounding drums drive male and female shared lead vocals through an onslaught of rock that had never been attempted by a band claiming the name of Christ. Waves just rocked your face off as the albums lead track and with it brought a train full of controversy. Critics accustomed to reviewing the Gaithers and The Archers didnt get it. Youth Pastors trying to sneak in Love Song didnt get it. Pastors didnt come even close to getting it. Who got it? A bunch a rock starved teens in youth groups around the world being fed Evie like brussell sprouts and told to like it. They didnt. But they loved Resurrection and made them a household name within a few years. The album was made for literally nothing and Star Song Records had nothing to lose releasing it to Christian bookstores as long as they could duck and cover long enough for the brouhaha to wane. It never did. Over the next several years Resurrection band was the poster child for the demon rock hating televangelist and youth pastors bent on making kids love their favorites like Amy Grant and Sandi Patty. What was missed amongst all the ground breaking, door smashing and hair pulling was that this little band out of a Chicago commune had crafted a damn great album filled with great songs,

powerful social messages and unforgettable rock and roll. In fact, some of the bands finest compositions were released on this album. One of those finest was Broken Promises. The seven minute blues driven tune (think Clapton before he discovered guitars could be unplugged) features one of Glenn Kaisers finest vocal performances. So heartfelt and authentic you did not only believe him, you felt him. The plainly proclaimed Gospel has always been a trademark for the band along with their social justice agenda and the title track is an altar call set to music. Questions, doubts, fears all relieved by a letter that was signed in blood, mailed into my heart. Lightshine is the one chord wonder rocker that sounds great today and works in spite of its simplicity. Glenn Kaiser once joked with me over dinner that the song was written when he couldnt sing and play guitar at the same time. The album closer, The Return, is such a great melody and the perfect way to end the album. Here again Kaisers vocals shine with authenticity and transparency. Well, I guess thats all folks Wow!

135. Faith, Hope, Love Kings X


February 24, 2011low5point10 comments

FAITH, HOPE, LOVE (1990) Kings X I have seen Kings X live on three occasions. I still have no idea how they pull off their sound live with just three guys. It is really impressive. Of course, one of the times I saw them they were

the band for CCM pop artist Morgan Cryar. They played at the infamous lighthouse in Orange County. With their third release, Faith, Hope, Love, Kings X were positioned to become the next great rock band, and even though they have garnered a stellar track record and decent fan base, the world just some times doesnt get it when it comes to great and significant rock. Possibly more commercial than the first two release, FHL, is still a rocking album and filled with the bands unique, creative and progressive rock music. The Beatlesque vocals married to big and heavy rock just seem to work so well, especially here. The single, Its Love is a brilliant song that deserved even more radio support than it did. But like most Kings X projects its deeper into the album that the real gems shine though. Fine Art of Friendship has such a killer groove that sticks with you and a wonderful message of reconciliation. We Were Born to Be Loved just flat out rockshard! And the spoken vocal just works perfectly. Many prefer the debut because of its greater progressive and creative influence, but FHL delivers such a consistent and listenable sound that it bears more repeated listening.

137. Age to Age Amy Grant


February 24, 2011low5point10 comments

AGE TO AGE (1982) Amy Grant No other album even comes close to being the game changer that Amy Grants Age to Age was in the CCM industry. New sales ground was broken, new concert venues were added and a burgeoning industry became a major force in the world of music.

Age to Age was selling per week what most hit albums sold in their lifetimes. Word kept the project as their featured Album of the Month for nearly a year as sales never slowed down. It was the first solo artists album in CCM to be certified gold and the first CCM album to ever break the platinum barrier. It remained the number one selling album for 85 weeksin a row! The album also contained two number one singles that have become classic in the real sense of the word with Sing Your Praise to the Lord and El Shaddai. The former written by the late Rich Mullins and the latter by the incomparable Michael Card. Both would never receive the recognition they deserved for writing those two songs, but both benefited greatly from their songs inclusion. Card would also pen I Have Decided, another major hit from the album. Though I may never be able to forgive Ms. Grant for recording and including Fat baby on this project, but the rest of the album is actually quite strong and filled with brilliant songs for its era. The album was softer than the previous studio album which hinted at a more rock oriented grant. That was not to be the case and the album ends up stronger for the choice to be a more personal and transparent project. One often overlooked song is the albums closer. The beautiful and simple Arms of Love actually point toward the sound and lyrical style that would be employed by Grant later in her career. The song is also by far her best vocals on the project and i have always hoped it would be reworked by a more mature Grant on later projects.

138. Ten Songs By Adam Again Adam Again


February 24, 2011low5point3 comments

TEN SONGS BY ADAM AGAIN (1988) ADAM AGAIN

This second release from the amazing band Adam Again was such a tremendous leap forward in quality writing, production and performance from the debut that it is nearly staggering. What In A New World of Time only hinted at became fully realized in this impressive collection. Soul, groove, alternative, rock, world music and even flashes of Black Gospel ooze out of the grooves on this amazing project. Lyrically deep and introspective the genius that was Gene Eugene Adrusco began to develop in a much more obvious way. Tree House is a funky groove that was 2 minutes too long to be rock radio friendly but contained such an infectious groove that the six minutes felt like four. Beat Particular is a silky, sexy groove that just reeks of cool while never coming off as pretentious. The album highlight for me continues to be Trouble With Lies. Something about the groovy backing vocals and sparse production just makes it a stand out. There is just so much going on in this song musically that it demands repeated listens. The cover of the Bill Withers classic Aint No Sunshine does the song justice. This great album pointed toward what would follow, especially on the amazing Dig album to be reviewed later. This industry has lost several amazing singers, songwriters, musicians and produces, but few that match Eugene. He is missed even a decade later.

141. Mr. Buechners Dream Daniel Amos


February 23, 2011low5point6 comments

MR. BUECHNERS DREAM (2001) Daniel Amos Most artists in Christian music cant write enough great songs to fill a single album, let alone a double album. With Daniel Amos Mr. Buechners Dream you get the sense the band could

have recorded and triple album and not exhausted the brilliant creativity those recording sessions created. Born after a hiatus of quite some time and the first after the loss of good friend Gene Eugene Andrusco, the band appeared inspired and ended up creating one of the most beautiful albums of their long and storied history. The album is really quite stirring and pretty. The album was named after famed author Frederick Buechner, one of the many great writers that have impacted and influenced terry Scott Taylor over the years. Chesterton, OConner, Lewis, Blake and a host of others are appealed to on this project. The album is in many ways a departure for the band that had groomed itself as biting, hammering and edgy musicians and lyricists. Here the best word is beautiful. There is a melancholy lightness and sweet simplicity feel about the album that is a far cry from Fearful Symmetry and closer to Taylors solo projects. All this despite some heavy topics, the most notable the shiver inducing Flash In Your Eyes, a tribute to Gene Eugene. Reviewing this double disc is difficult as one feels inadequate in finding the proper words to communicate the beauty and power of these simple and stunning songs.

142. Audible Sigh Vigilantes of Love


February 23, 2011low5point6 comments

AUDIBLE SIGH (1999) Vigilantes of Love Another Vigilantes of Love album that Diamante was supposed to distribute, but fell through. Over my decade with the company there were four different VoL albums that I was supposed to have the pleasure of distributing and all of them never saw the light of day. This one was originally to be released through True Tunes, but it never happened, but it is the copy I own.

Wow, good like finding a song to skip here. It remains one of the most commercially viable releases in the bands history with several Petty-ish (and I mean that in a good way) styled pop numbers with significantly more instrumentation than almost any opther VoL project. If Petty had recorded Goes Without Saying it would have been a commercial success. Resplendent is self defining and She Walked On Roses is a great groove song that college radio should have loved. the more I listen to Mallonee the more I get pissed that this guy isnt the most decorated songwriter of his generation. There are at least a handful of songs that if were released under the name REM would be seen as some of Stipes finest work. Oh well, complaining and barking at the night wont change reality, but I do always hope the next album will finally be the one to introduce the world to Bill Mallonee. Until then I will continue to enjoy the stack of great work he has already released.

146. Vinyl Confessions Kansas


February 22, 2011low5point5 comments

VINYL CONFESSIONS (1982) Kansas After over a decade on maintaining virtually the same line-up the super-group Kansas went through a major overhaul with the departure of lead vocalist Steve Walsh and the recent public declarations of Christian faith by band members Kerry Livgren, Dave Hope and Phil Ehart. Though the three were Christian on the previous release, with the departure of Walsh the songwriting of Livgren came front and center. The search for a new singer landed the band an amazing vocalist named John Elefante. Elefante was playing drums and singing at the time for a Christian band called Sojourn. The facts of his Christian beliefs did not come to the bands attention until after he had signed on. Elefante was

also a songwriter (along with his brother Dino) and now Livgren had a partner who also shared his faith. After the rather choppy (lyrically) but still satisfying Audio Vision the band created the best of the Christian Years album with Vinyl Confessions. Oddly enough, the biggest hit from the album would be written by one time vocalist for Petra and popular CCM singer-songwriter Rob Frazier. Small world. But the best the album had to offer would come from the pen of Kerry Livgren now that his artistic freedom would be matched by a maturing faith. Side One always felt like an attempt at pop/rock music radio success with a much more comemrcial appeal while Side Two reflected the bands more progressive past. Side two would also provide two of Livgrens finest Christian works. windows may be the shortest progressive rock song ever at just 3 minutes and 30 seconds, but retains all that makes progressive rock so intriguing to its fans. But it would be Crossfire that remain the truly great progressive rock anthem from this album. Beautiful, stirring, progressive and simply amazing. This musical direction would be much more realized on several of the AD projects. Livgren and Elefante would only ever collaborate exclusively together on one song. That song is Play On and one that should have found some rock radio success if only it was 1978. Livgren would begin pulling away from the band with the follow-up as he wrote on three songs and did not record with the rest of the band. At this point his efforts were geared toward AD and, as a result, Elefante would take over the band for Drastic Measures, the last album before the return of Walsh and official departure of Livgren.

148. Achtung Baby U2


February 22, 2011low5point8 comments

ACHTUNG BABY (1991)

U2 Lyrics the deal with sex, love, pain, loss, hate and forgiveness. All in one song. After the career defining Joshua Tree and the critically questionable Rattle and Hum, U2 returned with a new sound, new direction and new fervor that continue their ascendancy into rock god status. Combining the punk rock sensibilities of Buy, the unbridled passion of War and a new found bitter sarcasm with electronic, alternative and European house music the band redefined the world of musicagain. What should not be lost amongst the trappings of the electronic experiments (which would continue and expand on the following release) are several brilliant rock songs and some of Bonos most poignant and transparent lyrics. Where previous albums focused on the political landscape and social agendas, AB is more aching, personal and troubling. Bonos response to seeing his dear friend The edge go through a separation impressed the content and personal nature of the album. One of the sheer delights of Bonos writings is his uncanny ability to take feelings and events and expand their natural or exclusive potential to make them universal. Bono also take an event and make the song actually point to a totally different universal reality. One was originally inspired by the wall being torn down in Germany and the struggle and beauty of the German reunification. But that singular event and its aftermath are expanded to create a message greater than the parts of the inspiration. Where many critics of CCM (especially from those within int eh charge) is the charge that one cannot tell if the subject of the song is Jesus or the artists girlfriend with easily interchangeable possibilities. Bono goes beyond that to include both blatant spiritual and sexual themes in the same verse. Of course one could argue that the authors of scriptural poetry did the same thing. I have always believe Achtung Baby is best listened to in its entirety and that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Joshua Tree is an amazing album filled with several amazing songs while AB is an amazing album filled with an entire collection of great songs. Outside of One there are no real U2 classics here, but when one listens to the album as a whole it is simply spectacular.

150. Whitecross Whitecross


February 17, 2011low5point4 comments

WHITECROSS (1987) Whitecross The single best glam rock, big hair white metal album in CCM history. Scott Wenxels unmistakable Ratt-like vocals may grow tiresome to some and sound dated to pretty much all, but Rex Carrolls non-top, fill every empty space with blazing guitar work is timeless. Actually the dated sound of the album should not detract from this album any more than how Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Steve Taylor or Daniel Amos can sound dated at times. How did they sound during that date in question? They sounded like the very best the industry offered. Other than the admittedly cheesy ballad Youre Mine (even the band didnt include this when they redid the entire album from scratch a few years ago) the rest of the album reached rocking heights unmatched by even the spiked Aqua Net locks. Actually the band was less big hair image-wise and more gutter rock in appearance. The look was more Guns N Roses than Stryper. The songs are simply, catchy and pure 80s kitsch but with the best guitar work on any similar release. The guitar solo Nagasake is the stuff guitar gods are made of and the intricate and blazing fast fret work of Carroll takes a good song and catapults it to great. Who Will You Follow, Enough is Enough and Signs of the End are just sheer golden delights of 80s metal excessand in a really good way! The band would change drastically after the departure of Carroll, but for one bright shining moment, Whitecross defined a genre and in doing so, created a lasting testament to all that is good about bandannas, spandex, zipper pants and Aqua Net. I was backstage with Steve Taylor at the Universal Ampitheatre when they were touring together (seriously, they toured together) and he said it was like touring with Spinal Tap and that he loved every minute of it.

151. Going Public Newsboys


February 17, 2011low5point8 comments

GOING PUBLIC (1994) Newsboys One notch from breaking the Top 150, Going Public must be recognized for the important album that it is and the impact on the industry. But it must also be acknowledged for being a wonderful record with incredible music and stronger lyrical themes then many of its contemporaries. This is the second record produced by Steve Taylor and the influence in the smartness in the lyrics and depth shows more here than on the previous release. Most notably on the monster hit Shine that would assuredly be recognized as one of the great songs in Christian Rock history. The album also features the bands most consistently strong content. Newsboys tend to create three of four amazing songs per album and then a side full of filler. here every song is strong and there is more cohesion as to the order of the music. There is both a musical and lyrical force behind each song as they flow from one to another. Spirit Thing, Real Good Thing and the title track still rank among the best the band has ever recorded. One other note. the album does not contain many ballads and the ones that are there posses a more introspective content and atmospheric sound which made them great songs, but not radio friendly. I always respect a rock band that can create ballads without the focus being trying to break though on Christian AC radio.

154. Second Hand Mark Heard


February 17, 2011low5point11 comments

SECOND HAND (1991) Mark Heard I am sure as I type this that I am going to regret placing this album too low and even more I will probably regret admitting that Second Hand is actually one of my personal least favorite Mark Heard albums. That being said I also understand what a tremendous record it is despite my personal likings. Perhaps its that the album is a bit more folky than others and less rock oriented that sways my opinion. But one thing I do know, that it is not about the songs. In fact, when these same songs are performed by others with different arrangements they become personal favorites. When Pierce Pettis (who I totally made a mistake not including) did Nod Over Coffee I was instantly in love with the song. Same with the cover of Lonely Moon. There are some songs though that no one can touch Heards version: The first is Worry Too Much. What an amazing performance by heard here and is a personal favorite from the album. I Just Wanna Get Warm is another highlight with great mandolin and violin work. But one must remember that even a least favorite Mark Heard album is still better and more enjoyable than 95% of the rest of the music I own!

160. Redemption White Heart


February 16, 2011low5point7 comments

REDEMPTION (1997) White Heart Just when this band got their act back together, they break up! After several years of floundering in mediocrity and, well, quite boring corporate rock and failed attempts at a more alternative sound, they produced the most mature and musically precise album in their career and it would prove to be their last. Originally a praise rock band with Toto like leaning, White heart was probably the second biggest rock band in CCM behind only Petra. But several band member changes and the inability to find their niche in the heavily nuanced and changing musical landscape, the band kind of disappeared for the true rock fans. Attempts at alternative like Inside proved beyond the bands pay scale. But the aptly titled Redemption was just that. More acoustic driven and harmony focused, both musically and lyrically the band made huge strides in regaining its artistic presence. The ballads were less syrupy and appeared for honest and authentic, especially the wonderful Honestly. The rockers are less anthemic and more stylized. I like to refer to this album as one filled with smart rock songs. Nothing flashy and limited production tricks, just great rock performed well and written with maturity and smarts. There is also, for the first time in several albums, the sense that the band was not trying to copy what was happening and music and just decided to be themselves. This was the first album since Tale of Wonder to have the same feel. Great album and a great swan song.

162. Psycho Surgery Tourniquet


February 16, 2011low5point1 comment

PSYCHO SURGERY (1991) Tourniquet Tourniquets Psycho Surgery may not be the best Christian metal album of all time, but if not, it runs a VERY close second. Sporting the best line-up for the band with and the line-up most closely associated with the bands best years, Psycho Surgery is a flawless tour de force of thrash metal from the early 90s. The high pitched screams of Guy Ritters vocals is replaced with a more guttural rock attack while the rest of the band combines the best of classical speed metal with the thrash metal of the day. Fast, intricate and precise. Here the band also infuses more of classical music into its ferocious attack, including the intro which sounds like an orachestra warming up. But it is the lyrical content that has always set the band apart. The constant theme of medical terminology relating to spiritual truths reaches a climax on this album as drummer ted Kirkpatricks history in the medical field comes in handy. A Phsychosurgery (one word is proper and is used on the later re-release of the album) is related to the failed history of frontal lobotomies in the medical world and the band relates those failures to the human condition. The band could take very universal and simple topics and make them sound totally different using intense and technical terminology. Almost a reverse of most writers whose goal it is to simplify the complex. Songs range from abuse (Dysfunctional Domicile) to the world and churchs response to the handicapped (Broken Chromosomes). Though a Frontline Records band, this album was also distributed by Metal Blade records and the mainstream market took notice. Utterly original and musically intricate and captivating the band maintained a level of quality few others ever reached.

163. Lay It Down Jennifer Knapp


February 16, 2011low5point6 comments

LAY IT DOWN (2000) Jennifer Knapp What Margaret Becker was for Christian Music a decade previous Jennifer Knapp was for her generation. An authentic, real, tough and transparent rocker surrounded by Zoe Girl, Joy Williams and Point of Grace. Knapp stood out in a pablum, commercial wasteland as one with heart, soul and guts. Immediately compared to Melissa Etheridge, kd land and the Indigo Girls when she debuted those comparisons would later prove to be quite ironic. But a decade before the whispered rumors were proven true Knapp was creating some of the greatest female singer-songwriter in Christian Music. No one ever doubted her authenticity as her early albums were filled with heart felt and emotional ballads and realistic rockers. Lay It Down proved to be the most cohesive and consistent. It would also receive a Grammy and dove nomination. The opening track still creates chills for its stark and brutal honesty as A Little More shares the heart of the broken sinner. The title track has a heavy country feel and is the most Etheridge like. But its in some of the heavier songs like Into You that Knapp sounds the most comfortable. Some female CCM artists attempt to rock, for Knapp it just sounds more natural. There are really no weak moments on the entire album as both AC and rock radio took advantage of this great album and played nearly every song. Knapp would follow with the critically acclaimed but almost forgotten The Way I Am. It was at this time that hushed whispers began to circulate regarding Knapps sexuality. I spent several hours with her at an event in Southern California at the time and she mentioned that that show would be one of her last and that she was calling it quits. Several people came up to me that night asking me if she mentioned to me that she was leaving Christian Music because she was gay. She never mentioned it to me but the rumor spread throughout the music festival that night and I was bombarded with questions because of being seen as being in the industry. Her hiatus would last nearly the entire 2000s before she recorded and released her Letting Go album. It was a coming out release in several ways as the bulk of early reviews and interviews

centered around Knapps announcement that she was indeed a lesbian. The day the album hit, along with the interviews, Christian radio immediately pulled everything from her off their playlists. I will only comment that if one can get past the issue involved Letting Go, from a purely artistic expression, is a brilliant album and would be worthy of being included on this countdown. That notwithstanding there was no way I would not include the amazing Lay It Down.

164. Killing Floor Vigilantes of Love


February 16, 2011low5point7 comments

KILLING FLOOR (1992) Vigilantes of Love There is not a whole lot more one can say about Bill Mallonee that hasnt been said in previous reviews and will be said in future reviews as VoL is one of the most celebrated bands on this list as only a handful will be more represented than Mallonee and crew. Produced by Peter Buck and Mark Heard and released on Heards Fingerprint Records, Killing Floor remains of the great albums of the early 1990s. Killing Floor is the third release for the band and was supposed to be distributed to the Christian Bookstore market by Frontline Records back in the day until some in the management team heard a few songs that they were not comfortable with. As a result the album never received the distribution it deserved as it may have been the most commercial sounding album of the early VoL days. Its hard to find a weak track on this amazing album. Though it features the same stark and limited instrumentation of the first two projects (Jugular, Driving Nails), here Mallonee does more with less as songs like Anybodys Guess sounds much bigger than previous pop driven melodies by the band.

The albums strength, of course, lies in the amazing songwriting of Mallonee who deserves to stand alongside the very best in all of music. But it should be noted that after two previous releases that Mallonees vocals are more mature and confident. They are more up front and forceful. This benefits the album as the great content and brilliant writing take center stage. Also, Heards production adds some touches the previous albums lacked, especially a stronger drum presence and a stronger representation of the mandolin. These subtle touches are pure Mark Heard and they pay off well. A brilliant record, that like everything by VoL deserved a wider hearing.

165. Equator Randy Stonehill


February 16, 2011low5point9 comments

EQUATOR (1983) Randy Stonehill No other artists made the transition from Jesus Music pioneer to CCM headliner quite as successfully as Sir Stonehill armed with his axe full gallop on his amp. Many of his peers could never transition from the simplicity and freedom associated with the Jesus Music infancy to the big bad music business. Not only did Stonehill make the transition and progression as an artist he somehow seemed to maintain many of the qualities that made the Jesus Music scene such a powerful force. Equator was the second album in this new ear for Stonehill and proved to be one of the best of his career and one of the best of the early 80s. With the help of former labelmate and friend, Terry Scott Taylor, Stonehill was able to manage walking a fine line between the live zany Uncle rand and the dark brooding singer-songwriter that his duplicitous musical personality always portrayed. There are plenty of wacky novelty songs, but with the help of Taylor and the Daniel Amos boys, they come across more new wave and less silly, though a few edits vocally here and there may have allowed for more repeated listens to songs like Cosmetic Fixation and American Fast Food.

Though he never matched the sheer dark humor and biting sarcasm of Lung Cancer, here on Equator the novelty songs are less annoying. The highlight, of course, is the Caribbean themed, Shut De Do, a future youth group sing-a-long favorite. But the strength of this album lies on the other side of Stonehills musical palette. The more straight ahead ballads and rockers on this album are utterly brilliant and rank with the best of Stonehills four decade career. Turning Thirty may be the very best ballad in Stonehills career for its transparency and simplicity. The acoustic guitar and light keyboard string arrangement by Tom Howard accompanying the song allow the poignant and universal message to pour through. The albums opener is a stunner in that it is so stunning in its quiet simplicity. Nearly acapella, the songs simple and beautiful arrangement grows with each verse and is some of the best quiet production in Taylors career. Even the Best of Friends, which may or may not be about Larry Norman, is reminiscent of Normans Song for a Small Circle Friends. This theme would show up many times throughout the rest of Stonehills career. Hide Them In Your Love is a DA sounding song sung by Stonehill and remains one of the best serious rockers of Stonehills career and possesses some of Randys best rock vocals. World Without Pain is another song that sounds heavily influenced by Taylor, and in a very good way. It would not have been surprising to hear something similar on Taylors Knowledge and Innocence. The albums highlight and the center piece of the entire project is the phenomenal and powerful China. I will not go out on a limb and claim it is Stonehills finest artistic achievement, but I would put it in the top two or three. Any artist would be proud to have written and recorded such a wonderful song. Musically and lyrically it is nearly perfect and its haunting refrain and unforgettable musical soundscape is what separates musicians from artists. Stonehill would follow with the soft and wonderful Celebrate This Heartbeat before stumbling with the forgettable Love Beyond Reason, the attempt at CCM safety. He would redeem himself with the Spirngsteenesque rocker Wild Frontier (reviewed previously), but through it all maintained a level of artistic integrity few have matched. And he did so over a very long period of time. I have never taken note if Stonehill has been inducted into the GMA Hall of Fame, but it would an utter disgrace if he was not.

166. Never For Nothing Margaret Becker


February 15, 2011low5point3 comments

NEVER FOR NOTHING (1987) Margaret Becker Sure, the womullet is so 1987 and Mags sounds at times like Nancy Wilson and even the title track could have been a single for heart, this album was possibly the greatest shot of fresh air in a stinky, stagnant pool of women CCM artists. In retrospect, not only was it great for its time, it is just plain great. It was the 1980s and this album was set squarely in the middle of it all. The industry at the time was filled with Amy Grant, Kathy Trocolli and Susan Ashton. Margaret came out blazing and Sparrow was smart enough to let her rock and not try an sanitize the sound for the sake of radio. The ballads would be all the CCM radio would get and they would play those songs to death. As mentioned above the first radio hit was the title track and it a Heart rip-off. But a really, really good heart rip-off. The song, though, shows a vocal diversity in Becker that would become more prevalent in later releases. Her ability to shift from smooth and silky to rough and ragged is unmatched in the industry. The album not only was a great record, but it opened the doors for female artists to branch out beyond the cute and bubbly sentimentality that they had been pigeon-holed with for over two decades. Becker would join forces in a few years with Charlie Peacock and create some amazing music not to be missed.

169. Aunt Bettys Aunt Bettys


February 11, 2011low5point11 comments

AUNT BETTYS (1996) Aunt Bettys Of all of Mike Knotts multiple incarnation, Aunt Bettys is by far the most puzzling, controversial and utterly brilliant. Mike Knott should be a rock star and the Aunt Bettys should have been the vehicle to deliver him to that status. Combining the most frentic writing, best of his previous work and a band recording live in the studio to create a loud and passionate rock and roll project. Not as pop and sweet as the Lifesavers, or as dour and dark as LSU, Aunt Bettys took the best of Janes Addiction and kicked it in the ass. Much of the debut is made up of previously recorded or written songs from Mikes repertoire, but here the versions seem faster, heavier, wilder. Many struggled with this release and the not-so-sanitized versions of some songs. Jesus still ranks among the best of Knotts career. Rock and a Bomb is just a great songperiod! But this is a rock and roll record and songs like Addict make it a 90s classic.The version of Double is great, though here is the one time I would choose the original. The band would release other material but the flight to the bright lights never took off. Suffice it to say that no matter the incarnation, Knott is utterly brilliant and deserved much more than he received from the industry.

171. Revival David Mullen


February 10, 2011low5point3 comments

REVIVAL (1989) David Mullen In the summer of 1988, the year I was married and would also move to Maryland to begin working for the Benson Company I attended the Christian Artists event known as Estes Park in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Somehow I ended up meeting and hanging out with a new artists who was in the midst of recording his debut project. He would perform during the week and I became an instant fan. Less than a year later David Mullens debut, Revival hit the stores and went beyond anything i had imagined from meeting and spending time with him. That amazing, razor edged and strained voice, the pounding rock and blues were only outdone by some amazing songwriting. Mullen would record only three albums but would win a shelf full of songwriting awards for his wife, Nicole C Mullen (aka Nicole on two Frontline released projects), as well as a whos who list of CCM artists. When Nicole was an artist on Frontline David came with her to a Frontline sales conference and we played a game of softball. I played shortstop and robbed him of a sure double by stabbing a smoking line drive (thats just a reminder to David in case he ever reads this). The title track rocks in a real Mellncamp, Americana fashion. His voice gravels through and killer hook in the chorus. Sho Love You keeps the same theme of true American rock with a phenomenal backing band. Heavens to Betsy takes the popular phrase and twists the meaning and turned it into a radio hit. The real centerpiece of the album is Backstreet. The Springsteenesque song builds from a quiet, nearly whispering introduction into a huge chorus that drives the point home both musically and lyrically. This is Mullens best vocal performance on this or any of his albums. the emotional ferocity that builds is the stuff spine tingling is made from. It is not just the voice but the attitude with which the voice derives. Empathetic and prophetic simultaneously where the words both exhort and condemn, mainly because they are to be believed.

Later albums would no longer feature the same rock and passion, but for fans of Rick Elias, Carson Cole, John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen this album was a sheer delight.

174. Medals Russ Taff


February 10, 2011low5point6 comments

MEDALS (1985) Russ Taff Though ranked much higher in the previous countdown, here the rules are different and the albums are selected using a different criteria Medals is Russ Taffs bBlue eyed soul with a touch of rock, soul and pop. But it was the vocals that took an exceptionally strong pop effort and made it a lasting work that appealed to even those that would normally not consider this style of music a staple of their collection. The album kicks off with a cover of Chris Eatons groove driven Vision. This is pure 80s popin a good way. Where Eatons original was more sanitized because of Eatons smoother and cleaner voice, Taffs more edgy and guttural vocal approach gives the same significantly more energy. Eatons sounded more European and Taffs is less dance oriented and more influenced. The first of the two radio friendly mid-tempo tunes follows with Im Not Alone. This may be the closest song to Taffs first project and The Imperials than just about anything else on the album. There is a Steve Winwood feeling to the song that keeps fresh sounding even as I listen to it right now. The title track follows with some of Taffs best vocals ever. This is the story of Christs atoning work and the battle He wages for His people. Though a man of no reputation or honors, we become His medals through His saving work.

Another tune following in the vein of Vision is Ive Come to Far. But rather than staying in a safe white bread electronic pop there is a great additional of soul that causes Taffs vocals to really shine and helps distance this song from much of what passed for hip during the plastic 80s pop scene. The stand out on the album though is the big hit, Silent. This mid-tempo ballad truly showcases the depth and passion of Taffs vocals though remaining restrained. This song in the voice of a less mature vocalist could have been a disaster. Taff does more with less on this song and it is why it is such a lasting treat. This song would have been a secular radio hit with the artist read Hall and Oates instead of Russ Taff. Taff went on a few years later to record his self titled masterpiece which will appear much later.

176. Rockin Revival Servant


February 9, 2011low5point3 comments

ROCKIN REVIVAL (1981) Servant Counter-cultural and social justice oriented way before it was cool or even known within evangelical circles, Servant played an important role in the history of Christian rock, and many dont even remember them. Juxtaposed against the progressive and theologically driven ideologies were loud guitars, smoke machines, laser light shows and fireworks on stage. Theatrical and original, Servant broke molds and practiced what they preached. I was at Summer camp at Pine Summit in Big Bear, California in the summer of 1981 and walked into their bookstore. There I saw the cover shown above and laid down my $6.99 for the cassette. Scorn and ridicule from the Youth Pastor (and Music Director) at my Baptist church soon ensued. The devils music wrapped in Christian lamb costumes. Screw thatthis album rocked!

Actually in retrospect it didnt rock nearly as heard as I thought it did at the time. it was no where the contemporaries of Styx, Foreigner, Bostonbut it still had guitar solos and big drums. It also had great songs and reinforced my then nearly unending obsession with the rapture with several songs about the coming Tribulation and end of the world. My views have changed drastically over the years, but I still love this album and for more than just nostalgias sake. Bob hardy was still the leading voice of the band on the album and I always saw him as an underrated rock vocalist. Sandy Brock is at her best on this album and Bruce Wrights guitar work never sounded better. The album also contains the most consistent sound quality and strongest songwriting (Light Maneuvers is close). This was also before the kayboard sound began to take over the band. But really it is about the songs and this record is filled with great ones. The almost 50s influenced chorus of Look Out Babylon and the grinding, funky groove of the title track sound nothing alike yet work wonderfully back to back. More progressive and creative undertakings work well here like the disturbing Isolated and the brilliant Jealousies. Admittedly, songs like Suburban Josephine are great concert standards but tire after repeated listens. When the band launches into the heavier experiments the results are exceptional. Heidelberg Blues and Ad Man work quite well as the guitar becomes the focal point. The album closer, Im Gonna Live, the half spoken, half sung rocker pre-dates modern worship by over decade. During this time the band was the biggest thing in Christian Rock and constantly allowed up and coming bands to open for them. At one time or another the lower half of the tour bill included Petra, DeGarmo & Key, Joe English, Jerusalem and a host of other soon to be household names.

177. Beat the System Petra


February 9, 2011low5point8 comments

BEAT THE SYSTEM (1984) BEAT THE SYSTEM (1984)

Petra For one brief moment in time Petra was the biggest thing in Christian Music. Not just Christian Rock, but all of Christian Music. Besides having the third best selling album of all time during 1984 the band also performed live in front of nearly 150,000 people, headlining tours featuring bands that just two years previous they were opening up for. At that moment in time lead vocalist Greg X Volz announced his departure. Following two uber-successful releases in More Power To Ya and Not of This World, Petra entered the studio with producer Jonathan David Brown and emerged with something completely different. Filled with electronica, keyboards and computerized drums, the live sounding rock feel reminiscent of Styx, Foreigner and Boston was replaced by something that was actually more original than any of its predecessors. Though dated because of the electronic enhancements and later rebuffed for some technological excesses, the album is actually filled with some of Bob Hartmans finest songs and easily Volz strongest vocal performances. If one strips down the songs to their bare essentials there are many gems here. But the album must also be lauded for its progressive production and attempts at breaking out the previous formula. In a strange way the album is actually the hardest rocking album despite the programming and electronic enhancements. Hell, if it just had real drums it would be nearly perfect. With the much more full production sound the band expanded what was acceptable on Christian radio. No longer would the band be forced to rewrite The Coloring Song just to find something palatable for CCM radio. Hollow Eyes made a huge impact on radio with both a more aggressive sound and less than cheery lyrical content. The worshipful Adonai was much heavier in the guitar vein than most CCM radio was accustomed to and yet it became a radio classic. In many ways the album broke ground. The sheer popularity of the group forced radio, Christian television and other ol boy media outlets to take notice. The overwhelming commercial success of the album also made the genre not only more acceptable but caused many labels to begin searching for the next Petra, opening the doors for the likes of Audio Adrenaline, DC Talk and Newsboys.

179. Big Town Ashley Cleveland


February 9, 2011low5point5 comments

BIG TOWN (1991) Ashley Cleveland I remember hearing about this blond with a monster voice that had appeared on everybodys albums, and regularly with one of my musical heroes, John Hiatt had signed a mainstream record deal with Atlantic. But nothing prepared me for the pushing play on my CD players and the a capella vocal strains of Soon and Very Soon busted through the clutter of modern music with sledge hammer. Damn, what a voice! Then i was even more pleasantly surprised to discover an album rich in textures, loaded with incredible talent and filled with brilliantly conceived and produced songs. There is really not a dud on the entire project. Of course Cleveland could also sing Presbyterian Book of Church Order and make it sound like Maggies Farm. I soon discovered Cleveland was an artist and not just a voice; a singer-songwriter with credentials to spare. But still I come back to that voice. Throwing out comparisons and superlatives will do her pipes no justice. A wonderful combination of Joplin passion, Slick rock cred and a bluesy, smokey vibe that is unmatched. In all honesty this should not have been the only album of hers to make list and that oversight is purely mine. That notwithstanding her debut here stands out heads and shoulders above most of her contemporaries and like nothing else in CCM at the time. I highly recommend her recent traditional blues and Gospel projects as well.

181. Phlip Side Phil Keaggy


February 8, 2011low5point2 comments

PHLIP SIDE (1980) Phil Keaggy Though not ranked among his best by critics over the years, Phlip Side remains a personal and fan favorite for several reasons. One is that even though it doesnt contain contain Keaggys best writing and guitar playing, it does contain several songs that are simply amazing. Really its an album that contains a few songs that are so compelling and powerful that even though it is not his most cohesive project, it remains one of his most loved and cherished. Each side of the album features either an acoustic or an electric tune. The side corresponds with the creative cover that lists the songs as Keaggy appears either with an electric or acoustic guitar. Both sides contain great songs and many are worth noting here. The rock side kicks off with :Just a Moment Away and shows the normal Keaggy guitar style. But it would be Sunday School that most remember. A rare excursion into the blues, Keaggy shows here the need for the artist to do an entire blues project! In a real rarity, though, it is the acoustic side that really shines. A Child, Spend My Life With You and In Your Keep all shine and show Keaggys mastery of the acoustic instrument. But it is Little Ones that makes the album go from being great to being a borderline classic. It remains the very best song about abortion written by a Christian artists as it is both an apologetic for the sanctity of life and a call for the church to repent and remember her to to protect the lives of the unborn. I challenge anyone not to be driven to tears upon first listen. The great songs are so very, very good, that they lift the overall album from being a good album to a fantastic one and a necessary one in all CCM fans collections.

183. No Compromise Keith Green


February 8, 2011low5point4 comments

NO COMPROMISE (1978) Keith Green Possibly no album or album title personifies its creator quite like Keith Greens, No Compromise. A trite slogan in the hands of many artists this phrase is the ultimate adjective qualifier for the man. As uncomfortable his words and music may have been for many, it was never a feeling that he was pointing a finger without also pointing it at himself. But this is a review of great albums, not great men or personalities. And given the latter, the album is simply fantastic! Like the predecessor, For Him Who Has Ears To hear, No Compromise combines Elton John type funky piano driven tunes and soaring and emotional ballads. Lyrically things are similar as well with a combination of rebuking and exhortive, prophetic declarations mixed with repentant and confessional compositions. Theres even another song about the Devil! It may be simply perception, but No Compromise seems more serious and mellower than many other albums from Green, especially in comparison to FHWHETH. Perhaps it just related to the fact that the most popular and memorable songs from the album are the ballads. Make My Life a Prayer, How Can They Live Without Jesus, Asleep in the Light, My Eyes Are Dry and To Obey Is Better than sacrifice all remain classics in the truest sense of the word. Asleep in the Light may go down as the most convicting song in CCM history with the line Jesus raised from the deadand you cant even get out of bed! Ouch! Two years before the release of No Compromise Tommy James (Shondells) would record Dont Wanna Fall Away From You on a solo project. For years after its release the songs No Compromise contained would haunt, exhort and uplift millions.

184. Charlie Peacock Charlie Peacock


February 8, 2011low5point4 comments

CHARLIE PEACOCK (1986) Charlie Peacock Signed to Exit records, produced by A&M Records and eventually limitedly released by Island Records. That is how you guarantee an amazing album goes completely unnoticed. It is also the seemingly never ending tale of Charlie Peacocks second solo release the eponymously named Charlie Peacock. Filled with many of Peacocks finest pop tunes the album deserved much, MUCH better. Despite opening for acts like Lets Active, Missing Persons, General Public and even the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Peacocks secular music career never took. Perhaps having an album in the stores to promote may have helped? A&M apparently was not happy with the album (originally entitled Town Hall) and Exit took the album to their newly signed deal with Island records. Several delays later the album simply never found a home. It is a total shame (sham?) as the album is wonderful expression of combining world music in a pop setting like only Peacock can do. The album is loaded with talent with contributions from Brent Bourgeois, Nigel Gray, Jimmy A, Randy Jackson and Lyle Workman. Island would add Peacocks hit from his debut album, Lie Down in the Grass, to a great collection of tunes including Message Boy, Counting the Cost and Down in the Lowlands. The latter would become a hit for Russ Taff on his self-titled masterpiece. Riding Into Wonderland would continue to be a personal favorite for its whimsical and sweet melody. Dizzy Dean Movie shines in its nostalgic feel and Forever Strangers should have been a mid80s radio hit. Though not the very best that Peacock would create it deserved a much wider hearing and more support and appreciation. Many Peacock fans rank it among their all time favorites, and deservedly so.

186. Lament Resurrection Band


February 8, 2011low5point5 comments

LAMENT (1995) Resurrection Band After three decades of crafting memorable, significant and compelling blues and rock, Resurrection band created a swan song of the highest order. Due in part to reaching out beyond their normal Jesus People USA community for creative support and enlisting Kings Xs Ty Tabor, the band created their one and only concept album and it was a striking artistic success. It would be their last. The Kings X influence can be found in the creative process, the vocal delivery and the fuller and more diverse guitar sounds. The album would also feature less of vocalist Wendi Kaiser than any other project. Glenn kaiser takes the reins nearly exclusively and delivers some of his most emotionally compelling performances. Wendis limited appearances end up being her best since Mommy Dont Love Daddy. Lyrically focusing on one mans realization of the hopelessness around him as he recognizes the decaying worlds fall into the abyss. This leads him on a journey of spiritual awakening and realization of the exclusive hope found only in Christ. Similar to the Old testament Laments, the listener is not spared the descriptions of the ugliness of life. This darker introduction makes the brighter hope even more stunning. One stand out track that cannot be ignored is the impressive acoustic driven Lands End. Limited to a simply acoustic guitar and percussive musical support, Kaisers vocals soar above the Celtic leaning melody. A soft recorders subtle inclusion is flawless and stirring in its simplicity. The conceptual nature of the album forced the band to perform the album live in its entirety while touring in support of the album. This left some older fans longing for some of the earlier hits, but worked masterfully live. This would be the last tour in support of an album and now the band plays very limited dates, primarily exclusively at the Jesus People USA directed Cornerstone Festival.

97. Fools Wisdom Malcolm & Alwyn

March 31, 2011low5point6 comments

FOOLS WISDOM (1973) Malcolm & Alwyn The first authentic Jesus Music album to crack the Top 100, Malcolm & Alwyns Fools Wisdom was the first Christian album I remember owning (or at least permanently borrowing from my brother of sister). I can sing every song and may be one of my personal favorites because of its impact in a ten year old in Anaheim, CA. Often called Christian Musics Simon and Garfunkel, the truth of the matter is that they were probably closer to Christian Musics acoustic Lennon and McCartney. The musical influence of the Beatles is unmistakable though the vocal harmonies do scream S&G. By early 70s standards this record was Godsend production and musical quality wise. This sounds as good as any pop album for the time and the US audience ate up this British duo almost immediately. But before the album hit the American shores they were household names (at least in Christian homes) in their homeland of England. Larry Norman would mention them in one of his songs (Dear Malcolm, Dear Alwyn) and their credibility amongst the Jesus Movement was solidified. Norman was a fan as at that point in his life he taken up residence in England and encouraged many young converts to use their talents for the Lord. Two of those would be former Zodiacs members Malcolm Wild and Alwyn Wall. The album sports a great supporting cast including members of King Crimson, Edwards Hand and Hudson Ford. Myrrh released the album in the US and it became a huge hit by the standards of those days. Everyone knew the title track and it became an anthem for the Jesus Movement

alongside Normans I Wish Wed All Been Ready. Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel really loved the duo and had them play at Calvary Chapel on a regular basis. Both are now Calvary Chapel Pastors. Primarily simple acoustic rock with Beatlesque string accompany songs of evangelism and the Second Coming themes found in abundance in the Jesus Music era music. But the quality of songwriting and performance separated the duo from nearly everything else releasing at the time. The rockiest tune kicks of the album with Say It Like It Is. A little Buffalo Springfield like with the acoustic rock production and tight harmonies, the sound in quintessentially British. The song is a call to the Church to stop putting Jesus in a box and preach the word as it is written. The title track follows and would easily make the top 10 of greatest songs in CCM history (another blog, hmm?). The beautiful acoustic guitar and tight harmonies that show a touch of the Everly Brothers as well as the aforementioned Simon and Garfunkel. Using Pauls (Apostle not McCartney) words that the things of God are foolishness to the perishing, the duo proclaims them as fools wisdom. The melody is so memorable and captivating it is hard to not click on repeat as I write this review. This is just a classic in the previously mentioned sense of the word. Tomorrows News is the duos shot at writing an I Wish Wed All Been Ready. The song is successful at presenting a terrifying picture of life of those left behind. The song starts with a lilting, melancholy sound but builds as it progresses into almost an acoustic Emerson, Lake and Palmer sound with the string arrangement and musical changes. Growing Old starts acapella and moves softly through a beautiful ode to the singers child. A lullaby of sorts, the song encourages the youth to consider what it likes living a Christian life and not to make the same mistakes the father did. The second verse deals with the loss of the father and the struggles of an aging mother. Every one is growing older and each are addressed here. Thing are Getting Better sits in juxtaposition to Tomorrows News where the duo express the wonder of revival taking place amongst the youth in their British homeland. I cant skip commenting what a great string arrangement this song possesses. Heaven of Hell continues the evangelistic theme as the options are plainly laid out. This theme will dominate Side Two of this release. The electric guitar makes a rare appearance on this song and is a perfect fit for the arrangement.As the song builds into a medium tempo rocker the theme of soon coming judgment and the eternality of hell are expressed as warnings to the lost. Seed of Corn takes its content from Matthew 13 and the story of the great harvest while The World Needs Jesus is self-explanatory. It is easy to see why the evangelically minded Calvary Chapel of the early 70s would be so profoundly supportive of this duo. Always on My Mind recounts the crucifixion and for who Christ died. More theological than anything else on the album, the Gospel presentation becomes more complete with the presentation of the sacrificial work of Christ.

The album closes with Its here the Answer Lies, with a wah wah guitar subtly in the background supporting the most 60s sounding song on the album. Not quite psychedelic, but more bluesy and pysch rock then anything else on the album. At 5 minutes it is almost an epic compared to the rest of the album. But it should be noted that a lot is going on musically here and it is great classic rock sound that was a but absent from the Jesus Music movement at the time. Outside of Larry Norman, Love Song and Randy Stonehill, Malcolm and Alwyn may have been the most important artist of the decade. Not only for the evangelistic accomplishments but because the authenticity of the sound and the quality of the music created. It was current and then, not a few years behind. It was real and honest and lasting. They would do another album together before breaking up and going solo. Both would go on to do a few solo albums (a few listed previously). After a great solo album (Broken Chains) Malcolm would the create the Mirrors and their one album would actually kick off this entire list. Alwyn Wall would do two solo albums. One, The Prize, is a must own and the other is a great Larry Norman release.

98. Devotion Undercover


March 31, 2011low5point6 comments

DEVOTION (1992) Undercover

The early 90s saw the demise of Frontline Records. Yet it would be several years before the birth of Tooth and Nail. Christian music was filled with horrific chick pop and hair bands that didnt know a new decade had dawned. Rap was in its infancy and no where near the authentic form it is today. Quite frankly Christian music was in its sucky years. Really great albums were few and far between and Point of Grace and Avalon were becoming the household names. Even the rock and alternative scenes seemed to be further underground than normal and a few years behind the times. The 77s were pretty much shopping for a label with every release and Charlie Peacock was producing other people rather than himself, except once every few years. But right in the middle of the early 90s doldrums came Undercovers Devotion. After the intensely dark and difficult Balance of Power, Undercover found the light at the end of the tunnel and came out rocking with their best foot forward. Heavy, yet creative and some smoking guitar and drums. This would sadly be the last album featuring what is know as the best Undercover line-up. In fact, the follow-up release, Forum, is difficult to even call an Undercover album given the radical line-up changes and lack of cohesive band. Songwriting responsibilities once again fall into the hands of keyboardist and band leader, Ojo Taylor. Gym Nicholson plays his best guitar, Gary Olson remains on drums and lead vocalist Sim Wilson is less operatic and dark and much more rock vocalist here. Think more Axl Rose and less Jim Morrison. But with Devotion there is a sense of urgency and artistic freedom that oozes out of every song. Without falling into the grunge trap, the band rocked hard without any punk leanings, but also no angsty, doesnt life suck mentality. Thats not to say there are no expressions of difficulty, darkness or struggles, but rather there is more of a sense of hope here than on the previous. Oh yeahand the album just totally kicks ass! Work It Out kicks off the album with a vengeance. The high maintenance lifestyle found in Ojo Taylors Southern California home takes the bite of criticism here. A sense of futility arises as the simplicity of life is crowded out in a me first world. Man, Oh Man is a real highlight on this album. From the best produced drums in Undercovers history to the added brass section (with help from Rob Watson) and driving rhythm this is one to put the top down and hit the gas with. The song asks Adam what was he thinking when he used to walk in the cool of the evening with the lord and yet still rejected this lifestyle for one of sin. Sea of Tranquility sports a sexy GnR type rock and roll from the gutter hipness. Groovy and heavy without sounding cliched at any time. Nicholsons lead is a bit too far back in the mix but still a great work. The slowed down bridge fades into an acoustic piano the leaves the message of loss haunting the listener. Brilliant musical arranging there.

I dont know why, but for some reason purple Flower reminds of the heavier Mad at the World sound that was also being released at the time. The wah wah guitar mixed with the restrained vocals and pounding rhythm just work though. A love song of sorts (not the kind normally associated with CCM) the song speaks like the Song of Solomon to both the physical and spiritual realities simultaneously. The title track possesses some of the darkest musical expressions on the album with the heavy groove and more difficult content. Wilsons voice is also a bit darker and hearkens back to the previous album a little more. But it works given the difficult content of loss and desiring truth. perhaps looking at the Church from the perspective of the women whose only desire was to touch the hem of Christs garment. How does the Church treat those in similar situations in todays culture? Promenade sounds initially like a Dylan tune from the late 60s with a call to community and unity. Terry Taylor helps with the vocal arrangements and one doesnt need to read the credits to recognize that. This could have been one of those songs where the audience sways back and forth with upraised lighters swaying in unison. In some ways it feels out of place, while it also seems to fit perfectly. The more pop driven Where I Should Be follows. The theme of longing for belonging remains here. Again this is also how the album separates itself from the previous release. There is more of a sense of hope and that the twinkle in the eye will return. Wilson gets a bit more rock and roll here and it works as the song closes. Dark Night again expresses the tension of both the spiritual and physical realities in human relationships, especially those of an intimate situation. The water expresses this commonality. Terry Taylor helps out again in All That I Am. The song is limited lyrically with only 8 lines making up the entire content. But the truth and the presentation contained within the 4 plus minutes is spell binding. Taylors vocal arrangement helps carry the song and Nicholsons restrained and tasteful bluesy guitar work seals the deal. So Wonderful closes the album with a beautiful song of freedom and release. I wish I knew the story behind the song as it is dedicated to Rose, but I am not familiar. perhaps the back story would help with the review, but the song itself is stunning. A great keyboard created string arrangement supports a song where Wilsons voice is at its very best. The chorus is just beautiful and bring this amazing to a hopeful and encouraging close. This will not be the last Undercover album to grace the Top 100, but when it was released it was the most important and possibly best thing going in CCM.

99. The Big Picture Michael W. Smith


March 31, 2011low5point15 comments

THE BIG PICTURE (1986) Michael W. Smith It has been said here and elsewhere (and quite often) that a CCM albums depth, quality and creativity will be inversely proportionate to its sales success. Meaning; the better the album the fewer the people that will purchase it. This appears to remain true even for CCMs golden boy and most popular and prolific male artist, Michael W Smith. The Big Picture, Smiths artistic triumph remains his weakest selling album and the only album in his career not to reach even gold status. After a strong debut and the utterly forgettable argyle sock of a sophomore release (aptly titled 2), Smith grabbed the CCM world by the throat with an album that was sonically, creatively and musically miles ahead of the rest of the Nashville pablum for the time. From the dark purple and gold hues of the artwork to the tasteful technological advances and superior production, the Big Picture is great from start to finish. What keeps the album from falling off the tracks in a travesty of technological traps is that the songs themselves are very organic and real. Taking themes from the culture and wrapping them in modern sounds with a clear and poignant response to the baggage those theme bring along makes the album the one worthy release from Smith in the Top 100. The album start with the ode to nihilistic escapism in Lamu. The once-thought fictitious paradise is actually off the Kenyan coast and serves as the backdrop for the person who hopes to escape the world and its struggles by venturing off to the furthest point they can think of. But, as the song contends, you can never escape the One inside of you. The song starts with nearly a minute of musical introduction and cost the song any chance of radio reception. In fact, the entire album is filled with 5 and 6 minute musical expressions and

and radio airplay nearly impossible. The heavy guitar solos and pounding electronica probably didnt help as well. Wired for Sound is the perfect example of medium meeting message. Here the electronic gadgets employed in the production of the song match the message of a world consumed by technology. This technology clouds many from seeing the truth and the song warns of this danger.Even Smiths voice is given electronic embellishment to subtly continue the message. Old Enough to Know, the most organic sounding song on the record with limited technology. The song could have been the biggest hit from the album if it wasnt a warning against pre0marital sex. Not that the warning was seen as a negative, but it was simply a subject CCM radio avoided like the plague. the heroine, Rebecca, is encouraged not to gibe into the pressure and Smith twists the common phrase about being old enough to have sex and uses it to declare she is old enough to know not to. Continuing in the youth oriented themes that populate the album, Pursuit of the Dream is a very positive call to achieve your dreams and goals. It is also here where the album takes its name. Often in the pursuit of the dream one will miss out on the big picture and accomplishing what God wants for the individual.I recommend listening to this song (and the whole album for that matter) using headphones as there is simply a ton of stuff going on musically here that fills every nook and cranny of digitized tape. The one monster hit from the album (still a rather lengthy 4:30) was the song Rocketown. The title namesake became a youth oriented hang out/nightclub for Christians soon after. The ironic thing is that in the song, Rocketown is a bar where people are looking for sex and fulfillment without Christ. The song itself is very creative for a radio single, especially given the time period. the bass line though as a bit of a mellow Man in Motion thing going for it. In the song there is a mysterious Christ-like character that enters Rocketown and entices a young man (Smith) to follow Him to truth. Smiths own label would also bear the name. The nearly 6 minute Voices sounds the most like Smiths previous work with the worship like feel and classical musical landscape. Really, it sounds like a song recorded for the first two albums but was suped up for the Big Picture and made more musically relevant. The Last Letter returns the album to the more technologically driven rock. The weakest of the songs lyrically and musically, it still sounds better than most of his later work. The lull does not last long, though, with the following Going Thru the Motions. This is just a great song from melody to music. It also has the biggest hook of any chorus on the album and served as a great concert song. The song decries the common complacency that sets in on many Christians who simply go through the Christian life without making a difference. In the end they are living a lie Smith exclaims. The one 3 minute number is a rocking instrumental Tearin Down the walls. the song does just that. Great groove, killer guitar work and a ton of technological experiments jammed into three minutes.

Youre Alright is the most straight ahead rock and roll on the album. Guitar and drum driven with the keyboards acting in support. The song deals with maintaining a positive self-image through Christ by working on the inside rather than on the outside. This is the last song on the album other than a piano outro the closes the trip to the Big Picture. Producer John Potoker had worked with Brian Eno, Madonna and a host of others and had a huge influence on the musical direction and big production sound. Many will obviously find the music and production technique dated, but one of this lists presuppositions was to judge albums based on the time they were recorded and what was happening musically. And for that, this album is the most current album of Smiths career. He would record about 10 more albums in a row that are completely indistinguishable from one another. But the strength here lies not in the production (or over-production) but in the strength of a songwriter album to have his songs outlast even the dated production technique.

103. Kansas Jennifer Knapp


March 24, 2011low5point3 comments

KANSAS (1998) Jennifer Knapp Very few debut albums had the initial sales and critical success as did Jennifer Knapps Kansas. In fact, the album is one of the very rare debut albums in CCM to be certified gold, selling well over half a million copies. At the same time the album was adored by critics and still sounds amazing over a decade later. Knapp also pushed the envelope for female artists in CCM with a heavier rock edge than just about anyone outside of Ashley Cleveland. Her bluesy rock vibe and soulful and husky rock and

roll voice stood out immediately in a genre most noted for Point of Grace and Zoe Girl. This originality garnered her two Dove Awards for Best New Artist and Rock Song of the Year. After embracing Christianity in college, Knapp began writing music, recording those songs and touring to support her new life. Gotee Records caught wind of this dynamic new artist and signed her to a record deal. A few songs from her independent releases made their way onto Kansas and the freshness and originality of the album set her apart. The first single was Undo me, a rocker so good even AC stations found a away to squeeze it into their rotations. Gutty and authentic there is a raw sense of passione and purpose to the song and to the record as a whole. There is never a point in which thew listener does not believe what is being sung. there is a transparency here that was sorely lacking in much of the genre at the time. It is too easy to compare Knapp to fellow female rockers Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge, but her style is truly her own and the comparisons are, at best, guides for the uninitiated. Her brand of rock is guttier and yet more vulnerable with a sense of need and dependence rather than self-reliance and independence often associated with the genre. Not a bad song amongst the lot and most are superior. It ranks amongst the top 5 or so debut albums in CCM history without a doubt and eaily amongst the best female rock albums in history. Utterly, utterly brilliant.

104. The Indescribable Wow Sam Phillips


March 23, 2011low5point8 comments

THE INDESCRIBABLE WOW (1988) Sam Phillips Hmm, lets see how this actually works.

Create an epically stunning final album for the CCM market. Check! Perform an epically scandalous farewell performance at an amusement park. Check! Marry your producer. Check! Change name. Check! Sign with a secular label and request Christian bookstores not carry the new album. Check! Create an epically stunning debut album for the mainstream market. Check! Check! and Check! After the scandalous farewell concert at Knotts Berry Farm that saw a relatively scantily clad Leslie Phillips prance around on stage performing only songs from her most recent album (The Turning), and a crowd that dispersed quicker than if a fire alarm had been pulled, many wondered what had gotten into the beloved blonde princess of CCM. I have always been of the opinion that it was not a matter of something getting into Phillips, but rather something finally able to get out. That night is forever etched in my memory, especially given that I was one of the few who stayed to the end. In fact, I had introduced her that night and spent some time with her and future husband T-Bone Burnett earlier that day. I kind of knew what to expect, but obviously the vast majority did not. A very good friend of mine was sitting in the back and can attest to the mass departure. The band that night was pretty much T-Bone Burnett and the Alpha Band and I wasnt going anywhere! What was eventually to come out of Leslie Phillips was the artist that was always in there. She would be known as Sam Phillips, but she was there all the time. Even on the sickeningly sweet and over-produced pop album of the mid-80s there were always touches of a brilliant and creative songwriter and performer. Her honesty even in those days made many uncomfortable, with one concert with Benny Hester during the Black and White tour where she admitted to having thoughts of attraction to a married man caused ripples in the crowd. Honesty and vulnerability has never played well on the safe playground of CCM. But with the freedom and relative anonymity of a new persona and the restrictions of a safe and restrictive CCM market behind her, Phillips would create a wonderful and glorious work of pop and passion. Vocally more subdued that at any time in her career, it is Phillips the singer and songwriter that shines through on this Burnett produced masterpiece. Accompanied primarily by Burnetts jangly guitar and some stunning string arrangements. Phillips works her way through ten marvelous and majestic songs. Primarily an album focused on the struggles of human love and loss, those common themes create uncommon results musically. Find a weak song, I dare you.

The rockers are fun and memorable, but it is the ballads that so engaging and haunting. Flame and its sexually Latin driven whispy musical approach just envelopes and consumes. It is a song that is inescapable. The beautiful string and vocal arrangement on What Do I Do never let go. Phillips voice is recorded over and over in self-harmony and echoing effect that acts like a whirlwind of clouds that just surround and lift the listener. The 60s influence abounds. Holding On To The Earth sounds like a soundtrack to a psychedelic trip while She Cant Tell Time could have been written by Brian Wilson. The only song that sounds like Leslie is the pop rocker What You Dont Want to Hear. It may be the music the old fans may want to hear, but maybe not the content. Phillips appears more often on this list than any female artist outside of Julie Miller, both as Leslie and Sam. She remains one of the most influential and important artists in the genre and her place in history is secure. I can guarantee she will never grace the Halls of the Gospel Hall of Fame, but without her work many artists would still be held by the same binding restrictions she faced and overcame.

105. Higher Power Darrell Mansfield


March 23, 2011low5point1 comment

HIGHER POWER (1979) Darrell Mansfield Possessing a powerful testimony, a killer bluesed soaked voice, freakish harmonica skills and some of the best hair in Jesus Music, Darrell Mansfield has been a rocker, bluesman and evangelist for the better part of 40 years. He has released over 30 albums and played with the best the world has to offer. Through all that one thing has remained the same; Darrell Mansfield knows who he believes in, and is persuaded that He is able to keep him

After a brief stint with the short lived Jesus Music band, Gentle Faith, Darrell formed The Darrell Mansfield Band and began playing bars, churches and youth camps throughout Southern California. Much heavier musically than his former band, Mansfields penchant for ZZ Top type blues rock and powerful ministry was gaining a large following. A survivor of suicide (he still has the scars on his wrists as a reminder), Mansfield passion for the lost has propelled and challenged him to make a difference in the world around him. Humble and sweet-natured off stage, it was always amazing to see the passionate and fierce rocker on stage. Mansfields first solo project is the album in question here and remains on the truly classic rock releases in the genre. Released at a time when the simplicity of the Jesus Music movement was waning and the CCM genre was being birthed, Higher Power was the perfect transitional album. Legitimate rock numbers with strong production and progressive musical influences are balanced by straight ahead Gospel messages and the consistent Second Coming themes of an earlier time. The rockers outnumbered the ballads (a real rarity for the time), and they were great rockers. the lead track, Children Dont Run, starts with a slow bluesy verse structure before becoming a steady rocker in the vein of Bad Company or Eddie Money. Thats All Right would be the biggest song from the album and remain a mainstay in Mansfields live repertoire to today. A great bluesy number that builds and builds throughout. An apologetic of sorts, the song examines evolution and world religions and throws the postmodernist penchant for relativism back at the opposition. The songs guitar and harmonica work creates and killer bridge and finale. Mansfield would, for several years, peform the song wearing a monkey mask in mockery of the evolutionary theory. He would then throw the mask off (sometimes into the crowd) when he song the line, not gonna let no scientist make a monkey out of me. It worked extremely well back in the day. (On a total side note: One time while performing at a roller skating rink, he threw the monkey mask to me and had me where it while it skating. For a 17 year old fan, that was about as cool as it could get). The only two ballads are the very BJ Thomas sounding The Prize and Giver of Life. never understood why he sounded so much like BJ Thomas on ballads but never on any rockers. No More Blues, Love Conquers All, and the title track all contain legitimate rockers for the day and made Mansfield a household name in many Youth Groups throughout the country, though his main area of strength would be California. Mansfield would go on to experiment with more blues rock (Get ready), pop (The Vision) and even heavy metal (Revelation), but his strength and lasting prowess would be the acosutic and traditional blues that would fill the majority of his career. Albums with guitarist Eric Turner and Resurrections Bands Glenn kaiser are all top notch, but Higher Power would not only remain his finest rock outing, it remains one of the best rock albums the genre has ever produced.

107. Time Line Kerry Livgren AD

March 23, 2011low5point4 comments

TIME LINE (1984) Kerry Livgren AD It was quite apparent with the release of Kansas Drastic measures that the bands founding member, Kerry Livgren, was done with the band. Drastic Measures featured more and more of Jon Elefante and significantly less Kerry Livgren, both in the songwriting and in direction. Livgrens attention had shifted to a side project that would become his primary focus over the next decade or so. Livgren birthed AD with a member of Kansas and two vocalists that had once toured with Kansas as backing vocalist and multi-instrumentalists, Warren ham and Michael Gleason. Joining Livgren from Kansas was bassist David Hope. The group was rounded out by drummer Dennis Holt. Though initially a second solo album for Livgren, the band worked so well together through the recording process that they became a real band, choosing the name AD. CBS record executives demanded Livgren keep his name attached to hopefully help sales with Livgrens Kansas fan base. The band would be known as AD on following releases. The freedom to write exactly what he wanted lyrically seemed to free Livgren artistically and the results show. Though the album lacks many of the progressive trademarks of Kansas with only one song breaking the five minute mark, it also contains some of Livgrens finest straight ahead rock songwriting. The use to two primarily vocalists also allowed a diversity of styles and sounds throughout. Vocalist Warren ham also added his amazing saxophone touches for a unique twist. There are several great songs here and nearly all are worthy of discussion. The title track opening vocals and funky rhythms and brass section sound is completely foreign to the sound of Kansas. Like much of the album, Livgrens interest in eschatological matters are revealed in the song. High on a Hill and Welcome to the war would continue the theme.

Gleason would write one song (Make or Break It) and co-write two others (New Age Blues and Beyond the Pale). Gleason would also create several very good solo releases in his career. Oddly enough Make or Break It may be the most Kansas sounding song on the album and is the only one Livgren did not have a hand in writing. The ballad Beyond the pale received some nominal airplay, though quite a bit in Southern California and made the album a huge hit in that area. It is really a beautiful song that answer the questions and doubts found in Dust in the Wind. The keyboard and modern sounds found in Slow Motion Suicide really set the song apart from the vast majority of Livgrens songs. Great haunting harmonies and mood progressions really create a stand out song, completely different in many respects. The epic (if it can be considered that at just over 5 minutes) is the albums closer, Welcome to the War. More epic musically. The song remains one of Livgrens best progressive works as a member of AD. There are an amazing number of musical changes and progressions in just a five minute song. In a rare instance, there are really no weak songs on the album. It would also be the best work Livgren would do with the band that created some very good music in a very short period of time.

108. At the Foot of the Cross Various Artists


March 23, 2011low5point7 comments

AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS (1991) Various Artists Before City on a Hill there was a record so utterly stunning, breathtakingly majestic and lyrically profound, that all the other worship records that would follow would pale in

comparison. At the Foot of the Cross is really an amazing masterpiece that no fan of CCM or worship music should be without. The brainchild of The Choir with Steve Hindalongs Scripturally solid and provocative lyrics and help from Daniel Amos Rob Watson and Greg Flesch in musical and vocal arrangement, ATFOTC features the finest alternative artists in CCM at the time performing beautiful and aweinspiring songs with perfection. A trinitarian record of sort, the album is divided into three part lyrically (The Mystery, The Atonement and The Inspiration) the songs recount the promise of a Messiah and His work on the cross that afforded redemption. The trinity also finds representation in the title of Clouds, Rain, Fire. Musical influences range from classical to world music with Celtic, rock, pop and Gospel intertwined to create a record both stirring and completely listenable. Guests include Julie & Buddy Miller, Victoria Williams, Mike Knott, Pam Dwinell Miner, Bob Bennett, Derri Daugherty, Bill Batstone and an all too short yet glorious rendition of the traditional My Redeemer Lives by Mark Heard. Heard would pass away just a few weeks after the release of the album. The follow up album is also wonderful and both opened the door for both similar releases like Noel and City on a Hill as well as laid a groundwork for alternative and rock artists to enter in the worship the circle.

111. Return to Paradise Randy Stonehill


March 21, 2011low5point5 comments

RETURN TO PARADISE (1989) Randy Stonehill

Randy Stonehill made a career of using a producer for two albums in a row before moving on to a different producer, providing a different musical direction and a unique artistic flow. he would eventually return to Terry Taylor for a second round in the early 1990s, but the 80s would end with two albums produced by Mark heard. Only one of those two would be studio releases and that one album would become one of the two greatest albums in his career. As the most important figure to emerge from the simple Jesus Music era, Stonehills ability to maintain the simplicity and evangelical feel of the Jesus Music era while progressing as an artist in the CCM genre is unparalleled. And this albums return to the musical and lyrical glory of the early years is not nostalgic, but rather a progression of an artist fulfilling who he is. Ironically those two albums would share a common title. Where the classic (sort of) debut was called Welcome to Paradise, the follow up, Return to Paradise would arrive some 13 years later. Heards watchful gaze and gifted production would pull some of Stonehills finest songs out an artist on the backside of a very long and wonderful career, at least from a mainstream CCM point of view. More acoustic and less new wave, rock and pop influenced than most of the second half of the 80s output, this album returns Stonehill to artful and thoughtful songwriting, with a little help from his friends. The instrumentation is nearly exclusively acoustic with support from Bill Batstone, David Miner, Phil Keaggy and, of course, Mark Heard. Perfectly punctuated instrumentation support an album filled with stunning and lyrical melodies and thoughts. The album contains songwriting contributions from David Edwards, Pierce Pettis and a great cover of Heards Strong Hand of Love. The Ddwards song is often confused as another song about Larry Norman, but it is not. Pettis wonderful I Dont Ever Want to Live Without You, remains one of the best love songs in Stonehills career and features Keaggys wonderful classical guitar work. And the Heard cover is just a brilliant work on Heards most haunting melody. One real highlight is You Can Still Walk Tall, which sounds like something from Welcome to Paradise. The song of loss through death contains some of Stonehills finest vocals since the debut. Though Stonehill has gone on to continue making great music out of the Christian mainstream, the two Paradise albums work as brilliant book ends to one of the most important and significant careers in CCM and any true fan of the genre needs both albums in their collection.

112. Fire and Ice Steve Camp


March 16, 2011low5point5 comments

FIRE AND ICE (1983) Steve Camp In 1983 Steve Camp would sign with Sparrow Records and release his finest album, Fire and Ice. A year later, Myrrh would release the terminally delayed Its a Dying World, an album recorded a year previous to Fire and Ice. Co-producer John Rosasco would weigh heavily on keyboards to create a more contemporary and brighter sound than what Camp had previously released and what would show up on IADW a year later. This newer sound would remain with Camp for several releases. But for Fire and ice it is all about the songwriting. After the death of Keith Green there was real lack of artists with a prophetic fervor unafraid to stand on Mt. Carmel and fearlessly face both the religiously pious and reprobate. Camp seems to take up the mantle beginning with Fire and Ice and has never let it go despite what some would call black listing and marginalizing by the CCM industry. As for the album, Fire and Ice would contain multiple hits across several musical genres and would expand CCM radios musical palette. Though the duet with friend and labelmate Michelle Pillar, Loves Not a Feeling, was a slam dunk for radio, the genre would expand with other hits like Squeeze, Upon This Rock and the title track. Living in Laodicea, though musically a perfect for Christian radio was such a powerful indictment against complacent Christianity that many radio stations would not play it at first because of fear of convicting their audience and causing them to turn the station off. That fear proved baseless and the song remains one of Camps biggest hits. This is not a very bright and happy record. Camp began his career of indicting the church for sinful lifestyles and compromising Gospel on Fire and Ice. His later 107 Theses would later expound upon the messages birthed here. As a result the album is both an artistic achievement

and an important release that allowed artists that followed to write fearlessly about the Church and the world around them.

113. More Power To Ya Petra


March 16, 2011low5point9 comments

MORE POWER TO YA (1982) Petra After several years of trying to break the rocky ground for those who would follow, seminal Christian rock band, Petra finally hit the big time with More Power To Ya. The first several Petra albums (Petra, Come and Join Us, Washes Whiter Than andNever Say Die) saw the band sample many different styles of rock, folk and pop music with unfortunately diverse results. More Powers predecessor, Never Say Die, hinted at what was to follow, and despite containing Petras first huge radio hit (The Coloring Song), it did not match MPTYs complete quality. Lead singer Greg Volz, who joined the band full-time on Never Say Die, really took MPTY to a different level vocally. With Bradley Delp (Boston) style vocals, singer with power and passion in the upper register, MPTY put Petra on par with secular contemporaries Styx, Boston, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, etc. This was Corporate Rock at its best. The album kicks of with Stand Up, a rock anthem that would remain a Petra favorite for the following decade. This song would also continue Petras lyrical obsession with the Spiritual Warfare theme, a concept that could not be missed on MPTYs album artwork. MPTY also includes one the longest running hit songs in Christian music history with its title track. The single became a staple on the burgeoning Christian pop radio format. Though it didnt duplicate The Coloring Songs unmatched feat of being the Number One song on Christian pop, inspirational and rock formats all at the same time, it may have lasted longer on regular rotation

than any other Petra song. The worship-like anthem would also hint at Petras future of creating and recording popular worship music. A little controversy followed the release with the obvious use of backward masking to start of the classic rock single, Judas Kiss. At the time it was quite popular to hear Christian evangelists barnstorming against rock music and the alleged use of backward masking by Satanic rock artists to subliminally infect the unknowing minds of the days youth. Every rock artists from Led Zeppelin and the Beatles to Madonna and Boy George were accused of using a process by which a message is implanted into the grooves of the record in a backwards format where the brain would supposedly reverse the message and drive the days youth to worship Satan. Christian artists, especially those of the rock variety, were not immune to the accusations and more than a handful of Churches and Youth organizations held rallies and bonfires to destroy these purveyors of the Devils music. The list included, of course, Stryper, Resurrection Band, Petra and even Pop Princess Amy Grant and Church superstar Sandy Patti! Petra responded to the accusations by placing a blatant backward recording as an introduction to the song Judas Kiss. When played backwards, the message stated What are you looking for the Devil for, when you ought to be looking for the Lord! The message was not lost on Petra and Christian Rock fans all around the country as it was believed that someone finally stood up to this ridiculous claim of televangelist and youth Pastors. And the song rocked! The bands popularity made it possible for other artists like DC Talk, Audio Adrenaline and the Newsboys to find an easier path onto Christian bookstore shelves and onto Christian radio playlists. MPTY was not ground breaking in regards to creativity, originality and door busting rock sounds, but it did pave a path for those that followed to reach the ultimate gate keepers to the todays Christian Youththe Youth Pastor. Besides all thatit really is a good record!

114. Sin Disease Scaterd-Few


March 16, 2011low5point12 comments

SIN DISEASE (1990) Sacterd-Few Some bands knock on the door. Other bands knock down the door. Scaterd-Few took a freakin bazooka to the door to insure there was no mistaking that the door would ever work again. Brash, aggressive, creative, fearless and utterly and completely punk rock, both musically and thematically. After a few false starts in an attempt to kick start his musical career, Allan Aguire (then known as Ramald Domkus) worked in the studio with Terry Taylor and Gene Eugene to formulate, create and present Scaterd-Few, the most important and creative punk rock in Christian music at the time. A touch of Janes Addiction and a dose of Dead Kennedys and Shattered Faith, the results were one of the most important releases in the history of Frontline Records. Though it never reached the sales results it deserved, it still reins as one of the most critically acclaimed releases in the progressive labels illustrious line up. I remember when all of my Family Bookstores were ordered to pull the album from their shelves because of some clearly misunderstood lyrics. The most controversial song appeared to be Glass God. Oddly, the song is one of the most powerful anti-drug songs ever written by a Christian band. It wasnt helped later, though, that Aguire admitted to smoking pot. The creative influences of funk, jazz, progressive jazz, reggae and world music poured into the mix of heavy punk and stratospheric vocals created the most original sound of any Christian alternative music for the time. There were instrumental interludes and progressive jazz solos with a leading bass line. Highlights include Glass God, Later (one of the truly great punk vocals ever), Lights Out and the reggae influenced A Freedom Cry. Beggar simply rocks with its aggressive bass line leading a funky groove atop a grinding and winding guitar riff.

Though many songs clock in at just over a minute, it is the four minute Look Into My Side that shows off the bands skills and Aguirres brilliant songwriting and vocals. Progressive and unrelenting, the song builds and builds \, while changing and rearranging.

119. Priority The Imperials


March 9, 2011low5point5 comments

PRIORITY (1980) The Imperials Life is not fair! Every child has heard that said countless times by a coach, friend and parent. One obvious proof of this is the vocal instrument God gave to Russ Taff as it compares to nearly everyone else that has walked the face of the earth! With priority, Russ Taff makes his swan song with the famed Imperials and does so with a bang. Quite frankly there is not a bad song among the lot. Great pop and soulful rockers and soaring and inspirational ballads. all of it, though, rests in the capable vocal chords of Taff. The album kicks off with the true classic, Trumpet of Jesus. Seriously it just unfair what Taff can do and it is never more painfully obvious than on this anthem. Great horn section, killer backing vocals and huge wall of sound production that was a scarce commodity at the time. The album does slip at times when Taff does not command the lead vocal responsibility, though, to be honest, it is only noticeable because of his presence. One great stand out song not headed up by Taff is Id rather Believe In You.

When Taff takes on ballads, the most subdued simplicity is just stunning. This is most notable on Be Still My Soul. The groups harmonies set against Taffs most subtle passion works perfectly. The best of the Taff lead Imperial albums also marks his last. It also marks the very best in the groups long and heralded career. Following albums would always suffer from Taffs leaving though many great vocalists would follow, they simply did not measure up and the band also refused to change with the times. But even 30 years later, this album rings true.

120. Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth Rich Mullins


March 9, 2011low5point4 comments

WINDS OF HEAVEN, STUFF OF EARTH (1988) Rich Mullins Here is another example of the different presuppositions between this list and the previous blogs list for determining placement. Though significantly more important to the overall progression of the CCM market, the album does not fair as well when compared to multiple releases per artist and exclusive artistic achievement guidelines. That is not so say this is not a great record, God Forbid. This is ana amazing record and no serious collector should have it missing. Winds of Heaven is a lighter, sweeter, sometimes melancholy project that is punctuated with worship and promise. But ultimately it came down to impact and lasting impressions and nothing on A Liturgy (or too many other albums for that matter) can match what Awesome God has meant to a generation of believers despite being an overall stronger project. If the reader is only familiar with the classic worship tune then they are missing a truly great project. On this album Mullins would change how many people approach the Lord every Sunday morning all across the globe. What started out as a quickly penned worship song for a Youth gathering in Michigan became the single most often sung modern worship song in history. It was

also listed as the Number One Christian song in history in CCM Magazines countdown of the greatest songs. Oddly enough the verse structure and content is nothing like any other worship song and, in fact, does not lend itself to corporate worship. But when the chorus kicks in there is nothing to compare it to. Memorable, large, boisterous, powerful and lasting. Generations later I am firmly convinced this chorus will still be a staple for Gods people in worship. If I Stand follows and may be the strongest song on the project. This song ultimately is about the recognition of mans frailty and Gods loving compassion toward man. It is a story of reliance on the creator by that which is created. Mullins points to the ultimate relationship a man must havegreater than anything he can find on Earth. One other radio hit from the project is Such a Thing as Glory. A musical backdrop bordering on world music sets the stage for a lyrical expression devoted to recognizing the great work of Jesus. Other highlights from this album include and I Love You, and Home. For those who may dismiss this album as a one hit wonder they have truly missed the heart of an artist that was just beginning to hit his stride. After two poorly received projects (though decent releases on their own), this project moved him into a whole new level of acceptance and the Church and music industry is the better for it. The only thing I have noticed in Mullins music is the lack of humor that he so often displayed in concert. In fact, I remember the first time I saw him was when he opened up for Steve Taylor and Amy Grant (seriously, they toured together). He sat down to polite applause and said; Now, I know most of you dont know who in the world I ambut, then again, I dont know who you are either! That broke the ice with the crowd and he then proceeded to perform a medley of songs he had written for other artist including Amy Grants Sing Your Praise to the Lord. That, for some reason, is etched in my memory as much as his memorable songs. He is missed.

123. With Footnotes The 2nd Chapter of Acts


March 7, 2011low5point4 comments

WITH FOOTNOTES (1974) The 2nd Chapter of Acts Hands down one of the most important releases in the history of CCM and one of the best Jesus Music albums ever recorded. Jesus Music grew up in a big with this release and forced the rest of the musicians within the genre to step up with quality songs, productions and performances. It also contains one of the greatest CCM songs ever recorded, and possibly the very best! After touring and performing with some of the best artists in the early Jesus Music scene like Barry McGuire, the three siblings were offered on recording contract of their own on Words rock label, Myrrh. Myrhh provided a decent enough budget to enlist the likes of Michael Omartian, David Kemper and a young Michael Been (The Call). Manyof the musicians would also become part of the ground tour band known as a band called DAVID. The album starts with what would later become a 2nd Chapter classic, Which Way the Wind Blows. Older sibling Annie Herring wrote much the groups music along with husband Buck, while the vocal duties were shared amongst the three. But for many it would be the lone boy, Matthew Ward, who would amaze the listeners with his unbelievable range. The Devil Lost Again features Matthew and would hint at what would come later for him as a solo artists. The more rocking of the three siblings, this song would have fit nicely on a Michael Omartian project and features some guitar work that pushed the envelope for the time. Love, Peace, Joy features the trademark tight harmonies that would earn the group their international recognition and would also later draw comparisons to ABBA, and eventually be ripped off by Silverwind. Nothing sounds quite as beautiful as siblings harmonizing and this rings true throughout the project. But the finest two and half minutes in Jesus Music history comes courtesy of the classic Easter Song. If ever a song deserved the recognition of the classic designation, it is this song. I cant

even imagine just how many times this song has been covered, sampled, sung, recorded or performed in its nearly 40 years of existence. I would venture to guess that only the Hallelujah Chorus has been sung at more Easter services. And it is also a wonderful song. Beautiful, inspirational and dynamic. This album was a game changer and a lasting testament to the legacy of one of the most important groups in CCM history.

124. Satellite POD


March 7, 2011low5point2 comments

SATELLITE (2001) POD When discussing the best selling albums in CCM history it may surprise many that the rap/core/alternative/funk/world music band from Southtown (San Diego) ranks amongst the most successful. With over 3 million albums sold of just satellite, the band has amassed a wall full of gold and platinum records and has maintained a pretty decent level of success, though never matching what Satellite accomplished. In fact, the album ranked among the Top 200 selling albums of the first decade on the new millenia. From first to last, this is PODs most consistent, commercial and powerful album in its catalog. Combining the best of the heavier and darker sounds of Brown and the more progressive and melodic sounds of later releases, Satellite is filled with hit after hit. In the early 2000s it was almost impossible to turn on a sporting event or wrestling program without hearing PODs music, especially the first single, Alive. Alive became a radio, video and specialty programming mainstay. That song was everywhere. The video was great and became regular on regular MTV programming, not just those programs

dedicated to more aggressive music. All this while never holding back on the Christian message or presentation, but never sounding preachy or ham fisted. Boom just kicked assperiod! Social justice issues as well as difficult teen issues like suicide are addressed here. The most significant being Youth of the Nation, another song that received very favorable airplay. Painting the picture of a lost youth culture the song calls for both repentance and understanding of the struggles of a new generation. Performed in the more hip-hop style the band employed the song became a huge modern rock hit, peaking at number one. Satellite sports the best line-up for the band as they would soon face some shake-ups and this would cause some musical direction changes. The main change being a shift away from the more hip-core style to a darker, more metal sounding vibe that seemed too far away from the more accessible sound of Satellite.

125. The Book of Kells Iona


March 7, 2011low5point2 comments

THE BOOK OF KELLS (1992) Iona Easily one of the three or four most pretty albums to grace this list, the sophomore release of Celtic/Progressive rock band, Iona, remains one of the most finely crafted and stunningly beautiful albums in CCM history. From the creative artwork to the authentic and atmospheric quality of the music, one pictures themselves planted somewhere on the Scottish coast or seated on the isle of Iona overlooking the cold northern Atlantic.

its easy to forget that this amazing Joanne Hogg led band started on the short lived What? Records label before moving to Forefront for later releases. Former Kaja (Kajagoogoo) bassist Nick Begg appears here also playing the challenging Chapman Stick. Terl Bryant play drums, and shows why he is the most underrated drummer in CCM. His work is utterly hypnotic. Based on the famous Book of Kells, a book believed to have been created on the isle of Iona during the 8th century depicting in art the message proclaimed in the Gospels. Ionas music here brings to live in audio the same wonder and passion associated with the art that portrays the greatest story ever told. Combining both the Celtic, atmospheric sound similar to that of Clannad, there is also a hint of more progressive music with alternative leanings and even world music and native American influences at times. Jeff Johnson fans would approve. Revelation is just that; a music revelation. Mathew The Man is more progressive and clocks in at nearly 12 minutes with changes, progressions and mood shift that make it appear like several songs and not just one masterpiece. Chi-Rho is such a great song and expresses the beautiful Christology found in Pauls writings. Like many albums within the genre, it is best listened to in its entirety and from beginning to end. the album ebbs and flows with Gospel message and the fullness of that massage is pieced together throughout the entire project. Brilliantly conceived and presented, this, of all of Ionas projects is an AYSO.

129. Immigrants Daughter Margaret Becker


March 3, 2011low5point1 comment

IMMIGRANTS DAUGHTER (1989) Margaret Becker

After a wonderful debut and solid sophomore effort something happened to Margaret Becker that would change the direction of her musical progression for the better and help her create one of the truly great female rock albums in CCM history. Someone introduced her to Charlie Peacock. With Peacocks help Becker created Immigrants Daughter, a thoughtful, and rock filled pop album with alternative underpinnings. Sounding now a little more like Annie Lennox than Ann Wilson, Beckers vocal chops expanded and sounded more current and original. Subdued when needed and blowing up when necessary, her vocals here would not be matched until much later on some independent releases. Also with Peacocks oversight, the songwriting became more introspective and universal. Christian themes combined with real human experiences to create a more passionate and authentic record. The personal expression is found immediately with the title track and continues throughout the project.

The album also sounded more current and pulled Becker out of the Chick Rocker track and allowed to expand and grow as an artist and songwriter. Wonderful rockers and paired with ballads and modern musical expressions that also found radio to be quite responsive. Not every ballad has to be These dreams or Alone as sometimes the softer side provides a more memorable and authentic experience. There are so many strong songs here but a few worth receiving special notation include: Solomons Shoes, This Is My Passion, Stay Close to Me and the title track. The cover of People Get Ready is also a nice touch to close the album.

75. Toward Eternity Matthew Ward


April 21, 2011low5point20 comments

TOWARD ETERNITY (1979) Matthew Ward I have heard from different sources that Matthew Wards Toward Eternity is either the last Jesus Music album or the first CCM album. Released right around the turn of the decade that many define as the historical marker for the two genres. Produced and written by many that were the founder and stalwarts of the Jesus Music era (Randy Stonehill, Phil Keaggy, Keith Green, Michael Omartian), but decidedly more polished, rock and pop driven than anything released previously. I simply call it a classic that is clearly the center of a musical paradigm shirt in CCM. Production was stellar, performances spotless and Wards vocals soar. This is not a solo project from 1/3 of 2nd Chapter of Acts, it is a brilliant rock album conceived and released by an utterly unique and engaging artist in his own right. These are not left-overs from his group, but rather songs that far exceed much of what his siblings were releasing at the time. Musicians on the album included those mentioned above along with Abraham Laboriel, David Kemper, Ray Parker Jr. and many more studio pros. The album is nearly flawless and many aficionados will list it in their all time Top 10. It was also released at a time when many Christian Music buffs were cutting their teeth on the genre and this album proved to be a revelation to many. I would not be surprised to find many of the older readers complaining on its placement in the countdown, and I will not disagree; I understand their reasoning. Oddly enough, even fans of hard rock love the album despite its general lack of anything leaning in that direction. Much has to do with the great songs and Keaggys outrageous guitar work. It is always odd that Keaggy will often lend some of his best work on projects for other artists. But ultimately it comes down to the fact that Ward possesses one of the greatest voices on the planet. Period!

The album kicks off with the funky rock number Its Alright lead by Keaggys great guitar work. This is a fearless rock groove with a monster bass line driving the low-end. The song is built around a particular end times expectation complete with money system, beast and mark. That notwithstanding, the song is just so good. The great vocal bridge leads to Keaggys driving rhythm guitar work. Limited breaks between songs leads the starter right into a great Keith green piano driven song, Soft Spot. The Beatlesque (Penny Lane) sound of the chorus complete with a great string arrangement softens what could have been a much heavier song, and it actually works in the artists favor given the content of the song. The acoustic Noah immediately sounds like a Phil Keaggy song. And it is. Written by Keaggy, Ward recorded it and someone once mentioned that Keaggy didnt want to record it after hearing Wards masterful vocals. I dont know if its one of those popular urban legends as Keaggy eventually would record his own version. A personal favorite is the rocker, Till the Walls Come Down. Like the lead track, the song is one of the heavier musically and features Keaggys awesome guitar work, especially the solo. Written by Ward, Keaggy and Green (wow, just think about that for a moment), the song is most noted for the Michael Omartian lead killer bees. One must listen to truly understand the bees reference. Returning to the most pop oriented piano sound with Greens Better Than This, Ward lets the vocals go on a few bright moments when he hits some unreal notes. The song has a great hook, but the same can be said for the entire album. I can go years in between listens and still never miss a note when singing along. What would be initially the start of side two, Your Love Came Over Me is great Doobie Brothers (China Grove) type riff that never quits throughout. I know it may be hard for readers today to understand just how rare it was for a safe artist to deliver such a rock oriented album. The industry at the time would allow for the occasional pop rock riff, but rarely an album that rocked from start to finish. The song was written by Keith Green and a gentlemen named Todd Fishkind. Fishkind may be one of the most important songwriters and musicians from the era that no one really knows about. He was very close to Green and they wrote quite a bit together, including the classic Your Love Broke Through. Fishkind would also wrote a book about Keith. He was also considered quite the musician. Hold On follows and sounds like something off pop radio at the time. If not for Wards distinctive vocals I would swear it could have been a single off of Chicago 13. In fact, it would have been the best song off of Chicago 13. The borderline world music influenced Angels Unaware is the only truly dated song from the project. The lyrics about guardian angels at times are silly (something about the honkin flu) but no more silly than what Amy Grant would record nearly a decade later.

The hiccup of Angels Unaware is immediately forgotten with the stunning and emotionally driving ballad, Summer Snow. The simple song of faith and Gods timing is exclusively driven by piano and strings. Tom Keenes great string arrangement supports Greens beautiful playing. Matthew shows the range both vocally and emotionally here. It ranks amongst the true classic from the era. The much too short album closes with an Anne Herring tune, The Vineyard. It is all but an instrumental, as the only vocals are oohs playing the part of strings on top of Tom Keenes beautiful piano work. It is a contemplative ending to an utterly brilliant and timeless classic album. Whether it ended one or era or started another is not of consequence and the debate shall continue. What is of consequence is how truly revelatory and ground breaking the album was and how, over 30 years later, it is still a brilliant masterpiece by a wonderful artist.

76. Shawl The Prayer Chain


April 21, 2011low5point9 comments

SHAWL (1993) The Prayer Chain Christian alternative was always sorely lacking in angst. Then along came The Prayer Chain, CCMs most angsty band. After two moody and contemplative releases (one an independent produced by the Choirs Steve Hindalong and the other an EP for big time reunion records), Shawl was a smack in the face on the CCM market, set squarely in the heart of the grunge market with an abandon and aggressive emotional release.

Most Christian alternative at the time was either acoustic based or blues influenced rock. many were scratching at the emo and grunge influence, but none embraced them full force with such clarity and authenticity. The band could be considered a supergroup in reverse. Each member has gone onto other ventures and have excelled in those arenas. Guitarists Andrew Pickett is one of CCMs best rock/alternative guitarists (best?) and played with Mike Knott, Cush, My Brothers Mother and a host of others. Eric Campuzano (bass) started the Lassie Foundation with drummer Wayne Everett and both played with Starflyer 59 and Cush. The band has always been considered one of the best collection of musicians in the genre and lead singer Tim Tabor has gone on to build a large concert booking business and runs a record label. Shawl is a bleak, heavy and aggressive addition to the CCM market that many were not ready for. The positive and hope-laden expressions found on Whirlpool are gone and one gets the sense that all is not well with the world. Even the opening song references that Shine is dead, a shot over the bow of the previous release. The opening Indian chant set the groove that will sustain throughout the entire album and warns the listener: This is not something youve heard before. The heavy, Alice in Chains, type crunch and groove will never let up. But in the midst of this aggressive musical attack, there is always a sense of melody and groove that other bands seem to lose. Dig Dug starts slowly, almost like something from Roy Orbison, until the guitar punches through the wall. Taber throughout the entire project always appears to be on the vocal edge and, on a few occasions, goes beyond the vocal limit but is carried by the passion of the performance. The arrangements are much more intricate than one might expect from the genre and Pricketts uniquely creative guitar precision shows on Fifty-Eight. The song remains one of the bands finest and delivers both melody and passion not unlike the band Live. Like I Was is a more groove driven funk number in the vein of the Red Hot Chili Peppers or even another band from the same era and area, Dig Hay Zoose. Taber balances the funky groove with more drawn out and expansive vocal lines. I could listen all day to Pricketts guitar work here while the bass lines just pound and drive. The slower and softer The Hollow is much more atmospheric than the rest of the album and sounds like something from the original independent release or what Prickett would also perform with the Violet Burning. The song works well as it musically flows into a truly epic song in Never Enough. At nearly seven minutes, the song is also one of the most vocally evangelical on the album. This is truly an epic rock song with changes, mood shifts and Pricketts ridiculous guitar work. Taber goes over the edge and combining with the entire band performance makes a real Christian alternative classic, nearly on par with Stavesacre.

Wrounde features less grunge and a more U2 like sweeping musical landscape. There is quite a bit happening in this generally soft song. The funky change at the halfway point drives the song home. This moves straight into one of the albums best songs, despite it sounding nothing like the rest of the album. Grin is almost punk rock with the faster rhythm and unrelenting attack. Like a harder version of the alarm, the song drives a powerful punch through the speakers. It also comes across as one of the lighter and more hopeful songs. Big Wheel returns to the funkier, grunge rock that populates the majority of the album. Tabers vocals are much more clear and defined than most anywhere else on the album. Pure shows even more of a U2 influence and sounds like something that may have appeared on Rattle and Hum with its significantly more blues driven groove. Taber is also more reserved vocally and helps keep the song going forward. In a different industry and maybe a different time, the song could have been a radio hit. Worm is a spoken word interlude (if its even that) that leads directly into the albums official closing number, Psycho Flange. The song is almost an anthem with its bigger arrangement and more melodic approach. The song ends up being the most musical on the album with a killer bass line driving the song throughout. The CD contains an untitled bonus cut that fits the mood of the majority of the record. My only problem with it and the use of untitled tracks is that quite often they fit better in the midst of the album than at the end, especially how strong of a closer, Psych Flange is. I always heard stories about turmoil in the band and bickering throughout their tenure and how the final albums were difficult to piece together based on the bands inability to get along. I wasnt privy to those conversations, so, at least for this review, I will contend that no matter what happened at the end of the bands career, for one moment in time, they created a brilliant, heavy and lasting rock record at a time when most of that music is long forgotten.

77. Darn Floor, Big Bite Daniel Amos (Da)


April 21, 2011low5point36 comments

DARN FLOOR, BIG BITE (1987) Daniel Amos (Da) The famous gorilla Koko was trained to speak in sign language on a limited basis, After experiencing an earthquake the gorilla signed the words, Darn Floor Big Bite to describe the incident. The gorillas limited expressions and inability to fully communicate the response is compared to mans inability to express the wonders of God and the way life is lived with its many facets and expressions on one of Daniel Amos most constantly impressive albums of the same name. After finally completing the four album tour de force known as the Alarma Chronicles, (on four separate labels mind you), the band released its second album for Frontline Records. Now without keyboardist Rob Watson and featuring an increase involvement of the ever impressive Greg Flesch, the album was less atmospheric and surreal and more earthy and rock driven. It is a brilliant, rather accessible and stunning album that would remain one of the least successful projects in the bands history. (Well, they did use the word darn in the title, so what did they expect?) I almost dread reviewing anything Terry Taylor does, especially what is found under the moniker Daniel Amos for fear of fans decrying a lack of understanding on my part as to what the band and Terry were attempting to create. Quite frankly a quick perusing of Daniel Amos websites and chat boards reveal that the only acceptable Christian Music Top 10 would look something like this: 1. Alarma Daniel Amos 2. Horrendous Disc Daniel Amos

3. Mr. Beuchners dream Daniel Amos 4. Outdoor Elvis The Swirling Eddies 5. Bibleland Daniel Amos 6. A Briefing for the Ascent Terry Taylor 7. Shotgun Angel Daniel Amos 8. Doppelganger Daniel Amos 9. Lets Spin The Swirling Eddies 10. Fearful Symmetry Daniel Amos and so on There is no fan base in Christian music that comes anywhere close to the passion and obsession that accompanies the fans of this amazing band. Myopic and intolerant of dissent, they know more about every little release Taylor and Co. have even been involved with and to speak with any authority on the subject without prior approval and the express written consent of Major League baseball is strictly prohibited. So, walk softly and carry a very approving stick! The other problem is that, quite often, I have no idea what a song may be about. Taylor may be one of the best read songwriters in CCM (or anywhere for that matter) and his references to obscure writers and events can leave a puzzled look on many a face. Thats not a Taylor problem, but rather a listener problem; but it also can cause some severe confusion on the listeners part. But despite the limited success of the album and it, sometimes, obscure content, it remains one of the best of the bands career and has a cool freshness even as I listen over and over to it in writing this review. As mentioned previously, the guitar makes a pleasant and obvious return with the departure of Rob Watson and Greg Fleschs significantly increased contribution. This is immediately evident with Return of the Beat Menace. Jerry Chamberlain possessed a quirky and unique style why Flesch employs a wider and more diverse musical palette. Here we see some of the old Chamberlain influenced touches with a the off-center solo, but with Fleschs more crunchy/post punk rhythm style. This combination works well as Flesch displays a depth of new guitar sounds while not completely eliminating the signature sound that band had been known for.

I should point here that the drums sounds are louder and more up front than on many DA albums. I would also think it is time to note that all but one song was written by Taylor, Chandler and Flesch musically. This creates a much more band feel. Strange Animals continue with the more rock driven sound, focusing on melody and rhythm over atmosphere. The complexity of trying to describe the nature of God is a common theme and introduced here. The difficulty lies in the transcendent nature of those things of which we are not a member of the species. How can man adequately describe, in essence, that which he is not privy to the thoughts, presence and soul of? The theme takes on a much clearer reality on the title track. Like the gorillas story by which the song receives its name, man is at an utter loss to adequately describe God. Attempts are futile and the best we can hope for is a limited and vague understanding. Of course, Taylor puts it in a much more dramatic and stunning context. The Talking Heads like groove drives the song with a funky cool swing that is, at times, reminiscent of the music on Vox Humana. The softer and more ethereal Earth Household sounds the closest to Fear Symmetry as any song on the album. More keyboard focused, while a bit lighter and more positive than the previous release. Taylor has never been an artists who is afraid to address the sheer mystery of God and admit the reality is filled with unknowing. Wall of Voodoo and Guadalcanal Diary are two of the great unheralded bands of the early and mid-80s (along with the previously discussed Violent Femmes) and with Safety Net there are touches of all three. A nearly cowboy driven beat mixed with descant guitar rhythms and Taylors most edgy vocals on the album. Grace is a scary thing when one plays with their sin in careless ways. Pictures of the Gone World actually sounds like a song left off of Alarma or Doppelganger. The verse structure harkens back to those two albums with its quirky, pop punk delivery with a hook oriented chorus and wild, off-key (almost) guitar solo. Digging even deeper to a musical influence, Divine Instant reminds the listener of the Beach Boys and Beatles influences first really delivered on Horrendous Disc. The Polynesian rhythm of the verse structure shifts to a much more 60s influenced rock chorus. Ok, so just how many artists in CCM could write a song with the title, Half Light, Epoch and Phase? Borrowing from 1 Corinthians 13, the theme of attempting to understand the mysterious and unfathomable nature of God is continued. here we see through a glass darkly and only have cracks in the floor. The admitted struggle between doubt and faith are juxtaposed against a resolve to allow faith to continue without demanding God explain everything. The Uttainable Earth musically points to the direction the band would take over the next several albums. Thinking mans rock with strong melody and piercing focus. This song always reminds me of T-Rex and later Rick Altizer.

The album closes with a three and half-minute song that could have lasted twice that length. The beautiful and melodic worshipful tune is what great music is meant to be. A choir featuring everyone who ever dropped by the Green Room studio and an unforgettable melody. There is a touch of Taylors first two solo projects to be found here. A stunning song of grace and hope, it is the perfect ending to the album. It is really a shame that this album never received the attention and recognition it deserved. Some of Taylors finest band oriented music is lost to all too many. But, this too is a common theme!

78. Between the Glory and the Flame Randy Stonehill


April 20, 2011low5point9 comments

BETWEEN THE GLORY AND THE FLAME (1981) Randy Stonehill In 1981 Randy Stonehill transitioned from being one of the most important figures of the Jesus Music era to one of the most important figures in this new CCM era without missing a beat. After several years of building a friendship with former Larry Norman run Solid Rock labelmates, Daniel Amos, the two tremendous forces merged into one to create one of Stonehills finest albums. Produced by Terry Taylor and accompanied by the rest of Daniel Amos, BTGATF is Stonehills most consistently rock effort. Stonehill and the band walk a very fine line between accessibility and authenticity that makes the album a lasting treasure. The lack of parodies (Christine notwithstanding) makes the album utterly a rock effort that stands the test of time better than all but one other Stonehill release.

One of the truly great results of the production effort was that it DOES NOT sound like randy Stonehill singing Daniel Amos songs. These are clearly Stonehill songs that are shaped in a more authentic and current rock setting. But at times it does seem like Taylor restrains the more exuberant Stonehill and the effect works in creating a more cohesive and listenable album. All this while the album remains one of Taylors first outside production ventures; on Myrrh Records to boot! The title track kicks of the record is a strict Americana rock vibe before there was such a thing. Borrowing from the best songwriters like Springsteen, Dylan and Petty, this is real middle America rock and roll with a decidedly California feel. The feel is stripped down and simplified rock that is more transcendent than time warped; a real rarity for the era. Ultimately I get the impression someone was listening to Jackson Browne in the studio. Die Young features the staccato guitar riff that Daniel Amos would employ on Alarma and Doppelganger and it works perfectly here. The eta, drink and be merry theme so common in music is examined in relation to eternity and found wanting. The song itself would have fir Mark Heards Victims album thematically perfectly. Fifth Avenue Breakdown is a real rocker. And for 1981 is was a REAL rocker. The street life content approaches the theme of alienation in a crowded world in a much more real sense than most CCM during this time. Drastically different musically and lyrically from the first three songs, Grandfathers Song deals beautifully with the death of Stonehills Grandfather. Like many similar themed songs the hope found in knowing what is to come for our believing loved ones offers such hope. Find Your Way to me may be the finest pop song in Stonehill. Tasteful, soft groove builds into a great chorus and monster bridge before slowing back down to a great Beach Boys like vocal close. The closest thing to a novelty song is Christine, a song about obsession and the longing for acceptance. the object of the obsession is a popular evening television news anchor named Christian Long. There was a very popular Southern California news anchor named Christine Lund at the time. Its kind of an uncomfortable song because of the acoustic, balladeer style sound more stalking and creepy then funny. But that is part of the dark humor the song uses to weave its tale. The most heavily Daniel Amos influenced song is Rainbow. The Beatlespue rocker uses the backward recording process on the drums that Taylor would use often on albums like Vox Humana and Fearful Symmetry. There is even blatant vocal backward masking. The promise behind the rainbow is discovered in this grace-filled and beautiful melody. Givin It Up For Love returns to the more aggressive rock theme with the best rock guitar riff on the album. Jerry Chamberlain turns it up a notch here with a much more aggressive lead and crunchy rhythm. Stonehill appears more comfortable here than on many of his other rock

offerings.It should be noted that the song was penned by Stonehill and good friend Tom Howard. This is the first of two songs they wrote together for this project. It should also be noted before continuing that I firmly believe that randy Stonehill is one of the three best ballad performers in Christian music and I cant tell you who the other two might be. His ability to capture and move with just a simply acoustic guitar and his voice is truly unparalleled. Letert To My Family is an example of this. Stonehills vocal range and command of the melody is unmatched and I can listen all day to his mellower music; something i cannot say about too many artists. The albums closer, Farther On is the perfect close to the album. The tension created throughout the album as life is balanced between the glory and the flame is answered with the most evangelical song on the album. Very uplifting and positive without ever falling into a preachy mode. There is a simplicity in the faith described that appeals to Jesus Music sensibilities while understanding a changing worlds response to the Gospel call. While not the best Stonehill album from top to bottom (that will be discussed much later) it remains a classic with many unforgettable songs. It is also one of the better snapshots for time of an industry maturing and growing out from its Jesus Music infancy. It also introduced the industry to Terry Taylor as producer, and what a revelation that was.

84. How the West Was One 2nd Chapter of Acts, Phil Keaggy and a band called DAVID
April 13, 2011low5point17 comments

HOW THE WEST WAS ONE (1977)

The 2nd Chapter of Acts, Phil Keaggy & a band called DAVID There are many reason why a project may be included in a listing like this one; pure artistic achievement, popular and industry impact, originality, etc. As a rule, greatest hits projects are not included because they are not an individual artistic expression but rather a compilation of the artists work over a wide time span. Live records, for the most part, are similar to greatest hits projects and, as a result, this is the only record of its sort included on this list. The only other album I considered was DeGarmo and Keys fabulous No Turning Back. As a result the review here will not be like the others contained in the Top 100 where the album receives a detailed review. Rather here we will discuss the virtues of the album, the exceptional performance and the impact on the industry as a whole. How the West Was One is an artistic achievement of its own and is deserving of its representation here if only for the remarkable performance of Phil Keaggy. Phil Keaggy, more than any artist in Christian music, has suffered from the limitations of studio projects. Most fans of Keaggy bemoan how his live performances have never been captured in the studio. This is certainly not the case here, but that will be dealt with later. The first thing to note is the ambitious scope of the project itself. A few years earlier the 2nd Chapter of Acts had released a live album with fellow Jesus Music pioneer, Barry McGuire. That album was a double album and sold relatively well based primarily on the success of Barry McGuire who brought quite a strong musical legacy to Christian music. This project was more ambitious being a very rare three record set with the 2nd Chapter of Acts having to carry the load as Phil Keaggy was a relative newcomer to the market and his following was much more in the rock musician vein. Add to that the fact that the SCOA had not released another album of new material since the previous live album with McGuire. But the pure passion and quality of the performances included on this project are simply top rate. The back up band, a band called DAVID, contained some of the best musicians Christian music has ever witnessed. The band was not called DAVID but rather a band called DAVID. The band included Gene Gunnels, former drummer Strawberry Alarm Clock, Peter York and the amazing Richard Souther. Along with Keaggy playing throughout the entire album the musicianship was superior. The live band also made the music of SCOA more authentically contemporary, Highlights include Hey, Watcha Say, Which Way the Wind Blows, Yahweh, and one of the finest versions of Easter Song to date. The recordings, which were culled from an 18 city tour during 1977, were incredibly well produced with exceptional mixes. As much as I am a huge fan of the Second Chapter of Acts this project was truly a coming out party for Phil Keaggy. Previous to this release Keaggy was a bit of a cult hero, but mainstream Christian music had not completely caught on to this amazing master. Underground rock fans were familiar with Keaggy and his previous band Glass Harp, a sixties influenced, psychedelic blues influenced band that released three fantastic projects that saw limited success.

Keaggys guitar virtuoso reputation was impressive and many urban legends regarding secular guitar heroes respect for his abilities have continued unabated despite nefarious beginnings. One included a comment from famed guitar rock god Jimi Hendrix supposedly calling Keaggy the greatest guitar player in the world. Keaggy denies even the possibility of this by noting that Glass Harps first album did not even begin to be recorded until weeks after Hendrixs death. But these legends have continued for 40 years precisely because of the kind of guitar work demonstrated on How the West Was One. Both acoustic and electric stylings are represented here and the craftsmanship is simply unbelievable. Highlights include What a Day, the title track from Keaggys debut solo record and has remained a staple for Keaggy for nearly 40 years. Your Love Broke Through was the title track of Keaggys second release and is a wonderful Jesus Music classic penned by Randy Stonehill and Keith Green. It is said that Green was so impressed by Keaggy and his version of the song that he requested that Keaggy release the song before he did. But there are two songs that simply make this project the true classic that it has become. The first is the nearly 17 minute version of Rejoice that shows both Keaggys amazing skills and the subtlety of his guitar work. This is not some long rambling jam but rather the work of a master displaying diversity, restraint and creative skill. Much of the instrumental spotlight is exclusively the work of Keaggy as the rest of the band simply stops playing and leaves Keaggy and his guitar work center stage. The other highlight is quite possibly the Stairway to Heaven of Christian music. The song, Time is a 10 minute tour de force of rock at its finest. Where Rejoice shows the innovative, creative and quieter side of Keaggys work, Time just flat out rocks and contains the finest rock work of Keaggys career. The song shows the blazing speed and tasteful lead work that always seems to be missing from his studio projects. The back and forth playing between Keaggy and keyboardist Richard Souther is a sheer rock and roll joy. How the West Was One is a snap shot in time and, in some ways, spelled the end of the Jesus Music part of Christian Musics history. Things seemed to get bigger after the release of this project and two Jesus Musics leading performers would become significant cogs in the bigger music medium of the 1980s. But for that moment in time, this wonderful album remains a reminder to what was as it, at the same time, pointed to would be.

85. Keep On Singin Andrae Crouch & The Disciples


April 13, 2011low5point3 comments

KEEP ON SINGIN (1971) Andrae Crouch & The Discples In a time when this nation still was struggling with racial tension and understanding the various cultures the melting pot provides, a young black artist from San Fransisco seemed to create a colorblind response. Writing Gospel music starting at the age of 15, Andrae Crouch would go on to be the most recognized Gospel artist (white or black) to the mainstream audience during the 1970s. Crouch would appear on The Tonight Show and countless other mainstream television and radio programs and sold more albums than any Jesus Music artist at the time. The shocking part was just how many of those albums were bought by a white audience that not only broke the color barrier, but embraced the Gospel flavored soul and R&B that Crouch produced. Over the years Crouchs group, the Discples, would host legends in the Gospel music world as members including Sherman Andrus, twin-sister Sandra, Danniebelle Hall, Fletch Wiley, Bill Maxwell and Harlan Rogers. Crouch clearly influenced popular CCM artists like The Imperials, Jon Gibson, Phillip Bailey and countless others. His songs would appear on movie soundtracks and in hymnals. He penned several songs that are, indeed, classics and remain favorites today. At the age of 15 he wrote the first of those classic with The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power. He initially threw the song away, thinking it wasnt very good. His twin sister, Sandra, disagreed and retrieved the song from the trash and kept it from disappearing into history. One individual that has not been mentioned much in this blog, but deserves an indeterminable amount of credit for birthing the CCM industry is Ralph Carmichael. The amazing conductor and songwriter formed Light Records and was an early pioneer in the mainstream Christian music

world at introducing innovative and cutting edge artists when others were afraid to do so. Light would eventually sign acts like Resurrection Band, Barnabas, Sweet Comfort and a host of others. One of the early contemporary signings for Carmichael was a young Andrae crouch and his Disciples. They would release their debut album, Take the Message Everywhere in 1969. That album would feature The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power, and would become a huge seller in both white and black communities. The sophomore release, discussed here, would contain a host of classics and memorable songs. It would also take Gospel music farther than any release before its time outside of Edwin Hawkins. One song included on this album would become his trademark song and be included in many hymnals. His musical diversity would also set him apart with many Gospel infused styles represented. A traditional, soulful I Dont Know why Jesus Loves Me, starts the album with a very sing-along format. Much of what Crouch would write was to be used in corporate worship settings. technically, Crouch wrote Church Music for all kinds of churches. Im Gonna Keep on Singing has a very youth choir feel with the great brass section and orchestration supporting a multiple part harmony verse and chorus structure. The Sing and Respond chorus structure clearly influenced Larry Norman as the first listen bears out. The vamp at the end showed Crouchs goal of racial harmony as he expresses lyrically the need for everyone (black or white) to hear the Gospel. The ballad, Im Coming Home Dear Lord, is a song of reconciliation. Crouch shows off his smooth voice here as well as allowing his backing crew a spotlight to shine. The upbeat Gospel rocker, Along Came Jesus is one of those classics that has stood up well. The vamping and rocking combination of Gospel and R&B would later be employed by Jon Gibson and Bryan Duncan. Jesus is just smooth and sweet. The light Gospel jazz infused ballad is the definition of a Baptist altar call song! Take a Little Time features a great Ralph Carmichael brass section and huge chorus. the song builds and builds as it progresses. The song is an encouragement to remember to thank the Lord for all we have by discussing the story of the ten lepers in which only one returned to bless the Lord. Crouch talks about his own personal healiong in the lyric as well. The late 1960s vocal harmony sound dominates Whatcha Gonna Do. Nearly borrowing directly from the tight harmonies of California rock and folk artists like the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas, the song is far from the normal Gospel fair that one would expect from the artist.

The initial hit from the record was Ive Got Confidence. The song would later be covered by many different artists in both black and white music circles including The imperials and Elvis Presley. Want to know exactly what a hook sounds like in a chorus, just listen to this classic. But it would be the next song on the album that would define Crouchs career and make him a superstar in Gospel circles. My Tribute (To God Be the Glory) ranks among that greatest songs in CCM history and would be included in the Top 10 in any such list. I wouldnt even want to fathom a guess as to how many artists have covered this song and how many accompaniment tracks, copies of sheet music, songbooks and hymnals containing the song have been sold. As a child in a Baptist Church I always assumed it was an old hymn written by the likes of Fanny Crosby and was shocked to learn it was a current song and was only a few years old. The amazing inspirational lyrics are matched only be the unforgettable melody and brilliant performance. The live performance recorded several years later is just plain spine tingling! The album closes with the Country Gospel tinged I Must Go Away. Over the years white artist have liberally borrowed from the black community for musical inspiration and here Crouch returns the favor by taking a great Country feel and adding a distinctly black Gospel feel. No artist in the history of CCM has truly broken the racial barrier like Andrae Crouch. Black artists have gained popularity within white consumer areas, but none have ever received the national response and acceptance as Crouch. His brilliant ability to walk the line while remaining authentic and real to his roots and musical heritage is quite amazing.

89. Love Life Charlie Peacock


April 9, 2011low5point8 comments

LOVE LIFE (1991)

Charlie Peacock We have decided to pull Charlie Peacocks new album off the shelves. Its filled with nothing but love songs and, as a Christian bookstore, we just cant justify carrying a record thats just about love. I had the above conversation with a bookstore owner in Northern California. I wasnt even the rep for Peacocks label and yet I stood up for the album and put my own reputation with the store on the line by arguing the albums case to the owner. I walked her over to the Christian Living section of her own book department and pointed out several titles that were just about sex including the perennially popular Intended for Pleasure. I guess reading about the s word wasnt as bad as listening about it. The odd thing is only one song on the entire deals with sex and the intimate relationship within marriage. At that point I figured it was no use taking her to the fiction section and pointing out the best-sellers that were Christian Romance novels. What that bookstore owner, and countless other, missed out on, was one of the truly great artistic triumphs in Christian music. Love Life is filled with poignant, powerful and purposeful songs that are not only musically and lyrically brilliant, but brutally honest and necessary. Peacocks second major label release stands the test of time and sounds incredible 20 years later. Peacocks ten songs about love and life run the gamut from pleasant commercial pop, to romping Gospel, funky soul and progressive jazz. The tension created by comparing and contrasting the spiritual and sexual realities that are consistently intertwined in human relationships and how is compares to our relationship with God with wonderfully conceived and Biblically firm. After Lovin You gets things going with a smooth and killer groove with an unforgettable hook. The song also introduces the theme mentioned above. We are also introduced to Charlies band, made up primarily of Sacramento friends like Jimmy A and the amazing backing vocals of Vince Ebo. The song addresses the battle to stay committed and focused as a couple on a singular goal. Following in the same musical vein, Whats It Like In Your World? looks at the need for transparency and honesty in a relationship. Even more so, it deals with the struggle couple have being open and honest and letting each other know exactly how they perceive things. The verse act as wonderful intimate and open discussion starters for couples. Great guitar work as well. The album takes on an even serious tone, both musically and lyrically. Forgiveness is a brutally honest look at the struggle those in a relationship have in truly forgiving one another and the distance it creates between the two. Couched in a slow, Gospel influenced and piano driven melody, Peacock and Ebos vocals are mesmerizing and goose bump inducing, especially the bridge and closing as Peacock shows what a masterful and emotional vocalist he truly is. The jazzy Personal Revolution remains an all time favorite because of both the great and challenging content and the unforgettable chorus. The same interpersonal relationship struggles

are carried over into the spiritual world where we also refuse to allow God into certain parts of our lives. It also deals with the breakdown in relationship because of betrayal and infidelity. Brutal honesty here. The most difficult song is also the longest and nearly 8 minutes. The piano driven mellow free form jazz number Another Woman in Tears in a poignant and powerful revelation of proper roles of men in marriage. What drives a woman to distance, discontentment and bitterness? Peacock here is not preachy, but rather appears to be pointing to his own frailties as well. His emotion is poured out into the best piano work on any of his non-instrumental jazz releases. Peacock begins to reveal a more spiritual answer and much lighter musical touch with the hit, In the Light. This song would prove to be the biggest hit in Peacocks CCM career, unfortunately, the hit was for DC Talk, whom covered the song a few years later on Jesus Freak. The world music pop number in just one of the great hooks in CCM history. Few would disagree that Peacocks version is far superior. But what should not be lost here is the Peacock is still expressing mans struggles and the need of a Savior and it is not a fun reggae song as many have made it. This is not Shut De Do for the 90s. The song deals with total depravity and mans utter hopelessness without the light of Christ first exposing the sin and regenerating the soul. The song also calls to unity and need for human interaction in corporate worship and ministry. The greater love is expressed in the immensely pretty There Was Love. The song features almost exclusively Peacock and an acoustic piano until a string and drum driven bridge with a very Beatlesque close to the song with the help once again of Ebos unmistakable voice. Back to a funkier groove with I Would Go Crazy. The song is driven by some amazing electronic keyboard and percussive sounds and monster bass line. Peacock uses his trademark semi-spoken verse structure and a great dance/funk chorus supported by a great backing vocal choir. Lyrically peacock admits that life would useless with love and hope. There would be nothing to live for and the recognition that those needs are derived from Christ. The musical bridge, complete with steel drums, brass section and African chanting choir, just tears the house down! But its what would follow that would cause all the ruckus. Peacocks ode to foreplay for Christians is sensual, provocative and clearly and utterly Biblical. Kiss Me Like a Woman may not be safe for the whole family, but in a music world filled at the time with likes of George Michael, Peacocks Biblical approach to Biblical intimacy is shocking breath of fresh air. The song itself is a funky, sexy, groove filled romp that is passionate, hip and completely riveting. In it Peacock use the Biblical images from Song of Songs and proverbs to address the need and reality of intimacy with a Biblical framework. But this is not about having a Bible Study before going to bed, this is about the honesty, trust and sacred act of the sexual relations. It is, hands down, the very best song on the subject and Peacock should have been praised for this work and not ridiculed and blacklisted!

Peacock even addresses the need to explain to our children the beauty and purity of the sexual relationship within the covenantal confines of marriage. Finally Peacock also addresses the Biblical concept that the sexual experience is both promoted and created by God. He built pleasure into the act and is pleased when His faithful find pleasure in His creation. It is because of the fact that He created and affirmed the act, that when it is out place, it is a rebuke and transgression against Him. After the powerful and passion of the previous song, Peacock closes the album with a throw back Church music influenced ballad called When I Stand With You. Starting the song with just piano and voice, produced to sound crackly, like an old phonograph playing an old 78, the song morphs into a modern ballad with backing vocals, strings and various instruments continually being added as the song progresses. Here Peacock expresses that every idea presented before is ultimately meaningless without God. Love Life is a brilliant album from the musical inception to the lyrical acumen of an amazing artist that heavily populates this list.

91. Pray Naked The Seventy Sevens


April 6, 2011low5point8 comments

PRAY NAKED (1992) The Seventy Sevens (The 77s) Whats a band to do?

Despite the rampant rumors that even a cool label like Brainstorm, run by Ojo Taylor (Undercover) had to change the album cover, name of the album and white out the name of a song on one of your best albums, an album that was to re-introduce the band the CCM market after several years of not releasing any new music to the general public (Sticks and Stones was hits and left-overs compilation), it has been confirmed to me that the decisions to do so were the bands, and not the record companies. The funniest part is that every consumer, retailer and rock radio guy knew the album, officially their second self-titled release, was really called Pray Naked. The record company sales people told their retailers, the consumers knew the band and what was coming and rock radio guys are about as hooked into the industry as anyone gets. Oh well. My autographed copy has the name Pray Naked included in Michel Roes handwriting! The point here is, that no matter what they call, its a freakin great album. It is easily the best instrumentally focused album of the bands career and remains and personal and critical favorite some two decades later. Leader Michael Roe shows here why he is the most underrated rock guitarists in Christian music and one of the most diverse and creative songwriters in the genre. The album kicks off (and I mean really kicks off) with the Zeppelin tinged rocker Woody. Like Pages rock guitar styling that is blues oriented and groove defined, here Roe just rips through a killer groove that grabs by the throat. Roe is in his gutsiest and sexiest voice here with his growling baritone interchanging with his screeching higher range in sheer rock delight. the solo starts simple and then just devolves into a grinding and piercing romp. As quickly as Woody ends, a softer Roe accompanied only by an organ like keyboard and beach Boy like backing vocals wisps through the too short and pretty Smiley Smile. Phony Eyes hearkens back to the self-titled album with its more atmospheric sound and 60s influenced melody. Here Roes guitar is more subdued, simple and sweet sounding. There is a Chris Hillman feel to the song that reminds the listener of The Byrds influence on Roe that was so obvious on the self-titled Island album. Kites Without Strings may be one of the prettiest and melancholy songs in Roes repertoire. This also shows, like many of the other softer, more instrumental driven song, what a great band Roe put together with the addition of The Strawmen (David Leonhardt and Mark Harmon) and continuing to use the greatest drummer on the planet (hyperbole much?) in Aaron Smith. Here you just get lost in the music for minutes and then complain when it fades so quickly. Happy Roy is just kind of pretty. The song of lost love and the desired return of the fleeing lover is set to such a wonderful melody and sweet guitar work that it belies the fact it is such a sad song.

The next two songs employ the image of rain to express the feeling of loss and need. Deep End finds Roe feeling the pain of loss in the lonely setting while The rain Kept Falling in Love finds hope in the refreshing nature of the same rain. the first is a straight mid-tempo rocker that fills the album while the latter has a touch of reggae back-beat and remains one of the more commercial sounding songs on the album. The bass driven Holy Hold actually expresses a love found rather than a love lost. The positive approach to the lyric is matched by the more pop musical approach. The Brian Wilson influence is found here with even a touch of Robbie Robertson. Look brings a return to a more Zeppelin or even Bad company blues rock vibe with an acoustic rock guitar under the electric guitar driving the rhythm. Smith is just song good at driving more the passion of the song with his precision on songs like this. Not about fills but about pounding and driving home the point of the rhythm. Who cannot like Nuts for You. The George Thorogood riff and supporting raspy vocals are just too fun. Add the great acoustic piano by guest Roger Smith and this song just rises from the gutter in pure dirty rock pleasure. The over 7-minute title track (sort of) starts off with a phone message of a heavily accented Indian giving Roe the Hindu pronunciation of the words Pray Naked. The rollicking song of significant length has a lyric lasting about four lines. It is, as expected, primarily an instrumental track where Roe and company show off their instrumental prowess. The surf style guitar is just hypnotic. Despite the controversy and limited lyrical content the provocative idea of being perfectly honest, transparent and naked before God is quite challenging and worthy of consideration. Self-Made Trap closes the album with a huge rock sound and examines how we trap ourselves into our own sin. We need very little help to sin and are guilty not only of the action but of those things that lead us to those actions. We go willingly! I find the song to be lyrically one of Roes finest. Despite controversy, the album found an audience (though never as large as this amazing band deserved) and remains a fan favorite now 20 years later.

93. Circle Slide The Choir


April 5, 2011low5point10 comments

CIRCLE SLIDE (1990) The Choir You cant be serious! Has it seriously been over 20 years since this amazing album was first released? It feels and sounds just like it was yesterday. It is really both staggering and sad to consider the amount of time that has passed and how, in some ways, things have stayed the same despite the changes going on around us. After a popular response to The Choirs more pop laden Wide -Eyed Wonder, the band returned with what many consider their finest outing. I am in the camp that believes Chase the Kangaroo is the bands finest moment and that album will appear much later, but I leave not doubt to the fact that Circle Slide is a brilliant masterpiece and one of the finest the industry has ever produced. After the more upbeat and positive approach taken on Wide-Eyed Wonder (having a child will do that to you). Circle Slide returns to a darker, foreboding and introspective approach, both musically and lyrically. The struggles, difficulties and depression that were relatively absent from the previous album return here with an album full of real problems and pains. This album may be all too real for many readers and, in some cases, make the listener very uncomfortable. For those married and struggling with the inter-personal relationship demands, this album is both a refuge and a rebuke. All the while the band was also suffering turmoil. Just one album after the much heralded arrival of female bassist Robyn Spurs, she left in the midst of recording this album. Daugherty replaced her in the studio while former bassist, Mike Sauerbrey, makes an appearance on the albums closer. David Miner also makes a guest appearance.

This internal tension coupled with songwriter and drummer Steve Hindalongs apparent personal strifes make the album what it is. Stark, real and ever so inviting. These songs of loss, pain and struggle are so universal that the album remains one of the most personal and honest albums in CCM history. I dont know if the tensions lead to the more experimental sounds that fill the album, but one must consider how a musician may find solace in their instrument and guitarist and vocalist Derri Daugherty is at his most expansive and atmospheric on this release. The 7 minute opening title track is evidence of this while the more aggressive sounds found on If I Had a Yard also illuminate this possibility, especially having saxophonist Dan Michaels play through a wah-wah pedal to create an utterly unique musical expression. The title track opens the album with over seven swirling and whirling minutes. Daughertys guitar not only creates a melody, but a mood, feeling and image. Michaels subtle sax found way back in the mix, then brought forward later to build the mood, adds to the imagery that matches the album artwork perfectly. The song just sounds like Fall. But its here we find some of Hindalongs most pointed lyrics where we find a golden crown the savior wore. Yet there is a sense of detachment between those who claim the name of Christ in their most personal and intimate relationships. If I Had a Yard looks at the struggles within marriage by using the metaphor (even reality) of desiring something more of our residence. Money is tight and one can only afford what they can afford, but that does not keep us from believing that our relationship would improve if only our circumstances were different or, seemingly, better. Anyone who is married and struggling with finances can understand the rift and pressure these type of situations place on a relationship. Yet with Sentimental song we find a man who truly loves with an earnest and forthright love the one God has given him. Hindalong not only writes a great song here but also plays some of his best drums on the album. Merciful Eyes is one of the most beautiful attempts to reconcile the eternal struggle within man to understand how a righteous and perfect God can loves a wretched and sinful man and why He puts up with us. His mercy knows no bounds and this song attempts to describe this great mystery. Tear for Tear is the much too short (a complaint about the whole album by many) love song that blends directly into the more commercial rock sounding About Love. This may be the happiest song on the album. The recognition that it is God that provides the love we desire through human relationships (especially within marriage) is matched by Daughertys more pop musical expression. there are love songs and songs about love; this is both. Blue Skies returns to a more brooding and introspective content and musical expression. A combination of dreamlike images and stark realities created a song with layered textures message wise. This starkness is matched by the limited instrumentation during many parts of the song, with some moments possessing only drums.

The album closes with Restore My Soul, easily one of the best songs by The Choir. This Psalmists lament is a stunning display of combining a message and the musical medium it is swaddled within. The pain and ache for the restoring work of God is so universally real that it is inescapable. The longing and desire for fulfillment is so beautifully portrayed and is the perfect closing for this amazing project. The Choir remains one of those bands that seemingly can do no wrong. They have been a model of consistency and artistic integrity for nearly 30 years! They have few equals and if there is ever to be a real CCM Hall of fame they would and should be amongst those included in its freshman class of inductees.

65. I Predict 1990 Steve Taylor


May 27, 2011low5point10 comments

I PREDICT 1990 (1987) Steve Taylor Sometime in the Summer of 1987 I received a phone call at Maranatha Village. The lady answering the phones at the store mentioned that the caller asked for the Music Buyer or Store Manager, but would not give his name. That usually meant complaints and I was in no hurry to respond. I reluctantly picked up and the phone, and to my great pleasure, it was Steve Taylor on the other end.

He told me that most of his call were lasting less than 3 minutes and that stores either had not heard of any controversy regarding his most recent release or they were very familiar with the controversy and had returned the product immediately to Word Distribution. I was the rare store manager who was not only very familiar with the controversy, but also overwhelmingly supportive. I had been a fan and friend of Taylors for a few years at that time and once he realized who he was speaking with you could tell he relaxed. The two main issues surrounding the album were the album cover and its pseudo tarot card appearance and the lyrics to the lead track, I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good. The album title, a mocking of prophetic prognosticators, most notably Lester Sumrall, was matched perfectly by the artwork and was utterly inoffensive. And anyone who cant get the point of the song in question doesnt deserve a response. Fools! The album was recorded using Sparrows money and distributed by Word on the Myrrh imprint after Sparrow gave up hope on the project. Myrrh bought the masters, finished the album and released it about a year after its initial release date. The album features a maturing songwriter beginning to his stride and adding less of the satire and humor of the first few projects and a more serious content and writing style. There is plenty of sarcasm and satire on the release, but it is couched in a more sardonic tone and interspersed with more serious expressions. The album also contains what I believe is Taylors finest rock song and most interesting use of arrangements. Also, Taylors vocals are expanded and challenged beyond the previous bouncing Boingo and Bowie stylings. The album also features some of the longest titles to songs in any collection. The album starts with the aforementioned, I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good, the one of the few songs on the album that resembles his previously work. The obviously satirical work tells the story of an ice cream truck driver that notices a new abortion clinic opening in the neighborhood he canvasses. He realizes that if this clinic is successful it will damage his business by limiting the number of potential future client; children. The song examines the futility and danger of responding to the horrific actions of one with the horrific actions of another. It was shocking just how often the song was misunderstood even though in one line Taylor clearly states I dont care if its a baby or a tissue blob. That alone should have been enough to educate the listener as to the point of the song. What Is the Measure of Your Success, reveals Taylor at his Bowiest, with a haunting rock groove and low growl in the chorus. If Christians were to be offended by any song on the album it should have been this one. Taylor examines the worldly tendency of modern Christendom and compares them to their secular counterparts and finds them all too similar. Like much of the record, there are few answers here as the question is meant to cause self-examination.

The quirky Since I Gave Up Hope I Feel a Lot Better could have fit on On the Fritz, but is smarter and more engaging. And more dangerous. Sparrow would have nothing of it. The halfrapped verses are filled with more words than time to express them and one wonders when Taylor will actually breathe as he winds through them. The story here involves a young college student introduced to worldly philosophies and his inability to adequately deal with them. The song features the odd and intriguing fiddle work of Jefferson Airplanes Papa John Creach. As the album turns more serious, the slow and moving Babylon introduces a darker and more challenging Taylor. Whether expressing the Old Testament exile of Israel or Gods current people needing a legitimate and lasting cleansing of worldly influence, the song rings with eternal truths. It also features some of my favorite Taylor vocals. What I consider Taylors finest rock songwriting follows with Jim Morrisons Grave. The ode to better to burn out than fade away mantra of modern thinking and embraced by rock and roll as a whole is both brilliant and biting. Taylors vocals stretch and pierce with an edge that are nearly exclusive to this great song. The imagery displayed here as a result of visiting Morrisons grave in Paris points to the vacuous and depraved life that believes cruelty and disdain are necessary evil of genius and success. The final line of the song is brilliant as he describes the lasting music like that of a ticking watch on a dead mans wrist. Musically the song is relentless and never lets up until the very end where the song doesnt quite fade as simply dies with a strained backing vocal belts over a longing keyboard repeating over and over. The hook, though, is where Taylor reveals himself to be the growing and perfecting songwriter he was becoming at the time. The slightly Indian influenced melody of Svengali reveals a powerful morality lesson set to a rock beat. The 19th century novel (and classic silent film) on which the song is based tells the story of a wretched and evil music teacher who develops a control over his opera star pupil and destroys both of their lives. Taylor relates this to those things in our lives that lead us astray and away from God, most notably intimate relationships with unbelievers that keep us away from maintaining a healthy relationship with others and with God. Like Since I Gave Up Hope, Jung and the Restless addresses the modern and postmodern pitfalls of looking for truth outside of the Scriptures and embracing mans misguided and ungodly ideologies. This is the only other song that sounds like Taylors earlier work, except here it is darker in tone and content. The guitar work (Dave Perkins) is subtle and groovy and really drives the song. This song also contains the annual yodeling that somehow seems to make every Taylor release. Many consider Innocent Lost one of Taylors greatest songs and I do not disagree. In fact, it is here where the maturity as a songwriter and a performer are shown through restraint. The simple song reveals a simple Gospel story in a brilliantly moving fashion. But the best song on the album is the albums final pop/rock number, A Principled Man. Oddly enough, it was my least favorite song at first listen, but not only has grown on me, it has become a real anthem with lasting power. A touch of Big Country, Hothouse Flowers and World Party

80s rock dominates a world music delight. The jangly chorus and final chorus is striking and unforgettable. The album closes with a classically influenced ballad, or operatic pop number. Its Harder to Believe Than Not To is really a simple and haunting song recorded with a small string orchestra and vocal support from an opera singer and is based on a quote from Flannery OConnor. When challenged that Christianity is for the weak OConnor responded with the line that makes up the title. The song is probably the simplest song in Taylors repertoire outside of Hero or baby Doe. Yet it remains a personal favorite because its beautiful arrangement and poignant content. Taylor nearly whispers at points and the listener finds themselves leaning into the song to assure they do not miss a moment. Really quite brilliant! Taylor would only record one more solo project after this and has been MIA for two decades, though rumors of a 2012 Taylor release are making the rounds. Before a single decade Taylor was probably the single most important solo rock artist in CCM and repercussions are felt until today. In fact, every single Taylor studio release made the list as well as his band effort under a different name.

68. The Last Temptation Alice Cooper


May 12, 2011low5point6 comments

THE LAST TEMPTATION (1994) Alice Cooper

Were not worthy! Were not worthy! Wayne and Garth Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. Being a Christian is real tough. Thats real rebellion! Vincent Furnier Born Vincent Damon Furnier in 1948, a man would one day legally take on the name of his first band, Alice Cooper. Not born out of sance as legend has attributed to it, the band took on an androgynous name to match the on stage persona of its leader. Shock rock was born and those that followed in its wake from David Bowie and KISS would be forever indebted to Furnier and his bandmates. Born into a religious family, one that embraced a small offshoot of the mainstream Mormon Church called the Church of Jesus Christ, Furnier always had a rich religious upbringing. His parents would later convert to a more mainstream Christian understanding, with his father becoming a Baptist minister, but it would be several years before young Vincent found his own faith. After a few albums it became apparent that the band name Alice Cooper had morphed into the stage name for Furnier and it stuck. This villainous, evil, woman killing, Devil incarnate character became the main attraction in the world of glam and shock rock and Cooper indulged his fictional personality with drugs, drinking and sexual fantasies. Stage performances included guillotines, blood, animals, fire, smoke and lights like no other band on the planet. But hidden amongst the teen angst, evil glorification was some amazing rock and roll that delivered hits like Schools Out, Eighteen and No More Mr. Nice Guy. Oddly, the music was never quite as heavy or foreboding as the on stage presence and performance. The same could be said for bands like KISS, whose music was much more melodic and blues and soul oriented than heavy metal. The 1970s were very kind to Cooper from a success point of view. He released 7 albums in a row that were either gold or platinum at a time when those numbers were a rarity. Tours were large and lavish. Money abounded. But with the fame and money came intense pressure, alcohol consumption that nearly killed him and longing for the safety of his youth. The 1980s were not as kind as new wave and punk took over and the lavish stage performances audiences previously paid big bucks for were replaced with clubs, electronics and sub 3-minute radio ready hooks. Cooper released several albums in a row that did not fare well. He claimed that he did not even remember making many of those album as the result of alcohol amnesia. In the late 80s Cooper withdrew and went into alcohol rehab in an attempt to save his marriage and his life. What he found was a supporting family and the faith he had longed for. He moved to Arizona and began a trek of discovery that would eventually lead to the creation of The Last Temptation. A thematic album in which the protagonist is lured into an evil circus sideshow where all his dreams can come true if only he would sell his soul to the sideshow leader, The Last temptation

is a morality play set in an evil wonderland. The protagonist, Steve (the same name used in Coopers classic Welcome to My Nightmare), is lured into Coopers net with promised of cars, women, drugs and relief from the strain and pressure of the world around the young man. The story is oddly autobiographical as many of the temptations Steve faces are those that Cooper himself struggled against. But like normal, Cooper plays the Devilish character as Alice. This remains to today as Cooper argues that the Cooper character always meets his doom and that a great way to shine a light is to show how dark the darkness can be. There is a shift here from earlier Cooper works, as the darkness is more realistic and no longer shown in a positive light. Sin is brutal and harmful and our evil inclinations are revealed in a threatening and honest way. This is not a welcomed nightmare and the glory of sex, drugs and rock and roll are debunked. The morality play and album start with Sideshow, a great acoustic based hard rock song that introduces the Cooper character as he begins the incitement of the young man to join his traveling troop of evil. Smart, classic rock riffs with Coopers whining rock vocals combine in this 70s rock sound. The guitar riff is reminiscent of Elton Johns Saturday Nights All Right For Fighting, and is a driving force throughout the song. The young man, Steve, is visiting the circus, but is invited to see the sideshow by the ringmaster. We realize immediately this is a troubled young man who is looking for a thrill as he bemoans his current circumstance with the line, I need to get high just to be dull. So, as much as the listener may want to blame the ringmaster, Steve has his own sinful lusts before the temptations even begin. He has the God-shaped hole Luther spoke of and is looking to fill it. Nothings Freeintroduces the ringmaster in a song that sounds musically and vocally uncannily like Steve Taylor. In fact, the first time I heard anything from this album was at a Warehouse Music store in the Summer of 1994 and this was the song that was playing. I initially though I stumbled upon a Chagall Guevara album. It had the similar crunching guitars and a vocal style so eerily similar to Taylor I froze in my tracks. The song notes that the offer from the ringmaster was to cost Steve something. His soul, his ethics, his morality and his pride. Ultimately the ringmaster is asking Steve for his life. Lost in America follows with Steves open complaint about his current circumstances. He wants money, girls and a car. Caught in the catch-22 of knowing that he cant have any without all of them. A driving, heavier rock song (heaviest on the album). The studio tried to push this song as the single and video, but it never took off. What it did expose was that all the grunge angst of the early 90s owed a lot to the shock rock of the early 70s. The final verse reveals that Steve wants to be a rock star and embrace the trappings associated with it. Sound familiar? Bad Place Alone follows with a similarly heavy blues rock vibe as the beginning of the temptation is displayed through the introduction of alcohol and drugs. The results are not shown as pretty pictures with hot chicks and drug parties in Hollywood, but rather ambulance rides and detox centers.

Youre My Temptation introduces the most powerful and poignant of all temptations. Just like the warning in Proverbs, a dangerous and tempting woman should be avoided. Cooper reveals the Devil in a dress with the line You fool me with your angel face/Your Master knows where Im weakest. It should be noted that Jack Blades (Night Ranger/Damn Yankees) and Tommy Shaw (Styx/Damn Yankees) co-wrote the song. The first of the two power ballads (and should have been singles) follows with Stolen Prayer. The song was co-written and co-performed with Soundgardens Chris Cornell. Cornells voice is a pleasant addition to the song. Not really a prayer of repentance, but rather a prayer of questioning and a plea for understanding. The ringmaster is still poking the knife into Steve side while confusion and fear have set in. The allusion to suicide (murder?) in the final verse reflects the struggle Steve is going through and he questions what side of the equation his is willing to die for. In the end it appears the ringmaster has stolen the prayer of repentance before they can be uttered and Steve will embrace the evil temptations set before him. It is at this point that the real spiritual battle has begun with the rocker Unholy War. This is a completely Cornell penned tune and it shows with the darker and more modern alternative rock leanings. It may also be the weakest song on the album. But Steves fear of judgment day begins to show a chink in the ringmaster armor and a shift in Steves thinking begins. With Lullaby, Steve begins to reflect upon his upbringing in the faith and how he now longs for those simple truths. Musically in the vein of Queens Bohemian Rhapsody, this song really shows the shift in Steves thinking and the intense spiritual warfare taking place over the soul of this young man. Coopers vocals shift from sweet to dark and evil as the battle rages. The other ballad (and actual single) is Its Me. This song again was co-written by Blades and Shaw and it really shows. this is a Night Ranger power ballad with a Styx key change at the end. But as the song ends you realize it is the still small voice of the Holy Spirit whispering in Steves ear I know youve sinned every sin/ But Ill still take you in. The album closes with the 6 minute epic that I have always wish a band like Thousand Foot Krutch or Stavesacre would cover. Though it has no historical relation to CCM radio, even rock radio, I would place it amongst the best Christian rock songs ever. Here, Steve is delivered to the side but with a fiery result. he must rid his life of the ringmaster and his sinful desires. This will require a purging by fire, or to be Cleansed by Fire. The song starts slow, but by the halfway point is fully rocking and possesses the best bridge lyrically ever. Cooper lets loose on the devil and his conversion is complete with driving and aggressive list of those things he finally questions the ringmaster about. What about truth What about life What about glory What about Christ What about peace What about love

What about faith in God above What about war What about hell What if I stumble What if I fell What about blood What about greed And all of these things youre offering me Steve eventually tells the ringmaster to go back from where he cameback to Hell! The song is epic musically and lyrically is the perfect close to a powerful morality play set to rock music. I have met Cooper twice briefly and found him to be one of the nicest guys on the planet. Once was at a Ligonier conference in Pasadena as he is friends with RC Sproul. He was also shopping at a Christian Bookstore in Buena Park I used to call on. The store was located across the street from Knotts Berry Farm and he was there with his families and wanted to get some Bibles for them as their luggage did not arrive with them. Cooper has recorded a handful of albums for the last two decades (including the most recent in 2008 with Along Came the Spider) in which the depravity of man and the need for God has been a constant theme. Alice Cooper, the character, remains the same and in each concert I have been to, has received his judgment and just rewards.

70. Jars of Clay Jars of Clay


May 5, 2011low5point10 comments

JARS OF CLAY (1995)

Jars of Clay In 1994 a quirky, acoustic quartet from Greenville College sent a demo tape into a New band contest being put on by the Gospel Music Association. The quartet was invited to Nashville to perform as a finalist for the contest and ended up winning. CCM was never the same. Jars of Clays completely original, quirky, acoustic, folky alternative debut released bowed a year later. There was an immediate positive response to the very likable acoustic sound that didnt sound like much else in the Christian Music market. Driven by acoustic guitars, subdued drums and bass and tastefully supportive strings, song after the song on the album became radio standards. All this while lyrically sounding at time aloof (for lack of a better term) to using the tried and true religious phrases used by their contemporaries. But no one saw what was to come. Little by little the song Flood started getting airplay on College, Modern Rock and CHR radio stations around the country. The little label the band was signed to, Essential, received help from their parent company who paid for a video and radio marketing support and put the song into the Top 40. The video also became a staple on VH1 and MTV. It was a hit by any measure. But Flood was not the only amazing song on the project. The album kicks off with Liquid, an acoustically driven alternative rocker that also features something akin to an hauntingly Gregorian Chant backing vocals. The song pictures the crucifixion and the liquid that was spilt by Jesus with the refrain He didnt die for nothing Sinking deals with the struggles many have felt trying to deny the One they need the most. Deny myself, deny my heart Deny your hand, deny your help and you offer me eternity but why should I buy that? You see that I can play a pretty convincing role So I dont need you, I dont think I need you But as the book of Romans states no one can escape the reality of the creator no matter the determination of the individual to deny His existence. But you see through my forever lies And you are not believing And I see in your forever eyes That you are forever healing The first huge Christian radio hit, Love Song for a Savior follows. Here the poet describes those who seemingly are unable to see the truth of the Gospel as it appears right before their eyes. He longs for those people to reach out and love His Savior. When all adjectives suffer from

insufficiency to describe the eternal worth and glory of Jesus the author simplifies matters down to the desire to simply say I Love You. Like a Child continued the hit parade, but with the Jack Johnson like acoustic pop driving the verses before a more conventional chorus. The song is a call to have a childlike faith in an adult world. the fiddle work makes the song work in the bridge, but some may want to do without the small child speaking; myself included. If any critique can be made is the tendency for the production to be repetitive. Songs like Art in me can get lost when they sound so much like other songs on the album. He is one of truly unique offerings on the album, and remains a favorite based on how different it sounds at times compared to the rest of the album while fitting in perfectly. Same for Boy on a String, which lyrically reminds me more of what Steve Hindalong would write. The lyrics of this project are so reminiscent of the Psalms. There are doubts, struggles, proclamations and adorationsquite often in the same song. The most Psalm-like is the megahit Flood. The prophet/psalmist is surrounded by the struggles of life and looking upward for his refuge. Downpour on my soul Splashing in the ocean, Im losing control Dark sky all around I cant feel my feet touching the ground As the acoustic driven rock songs comes to a screeching halt midway through a shocking string section changes the mood and direction of the song. Here though the poet cries out Calm the storms that drench my eyes Dry the streams still flowing Cast down all the waves of sin And guilt that overthrow me Lift me up when Im falling Lift me up Im weak and Im dying Lift me up I need you to hold me Lift me up Keep me from drowning again The hit was produced, along with Liquid by former King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew. Belew has also worked extensively with Rick Altizer on several projects. The song itself was played to death and many complain of it being tiring after so many years, but, quite frankly, its a testament to the song that is has remained a favorite for some 15 years. And, detractors be damned, its also a very well written and conceived song. Completely different from anything that was on the radio at the time. How many hits at the time of Backstreet Boys zenith included a classical music influenced string oriented bridge?

The best song, though, may end up being Worlds Apart. Musically, lyrically and vocally, the song is a stand out. It walks this very fine line if being both haunting and hopeful. the albums closer is the simple and beautiful Blind. Primarily strings and acoustic guitar accompanying Haseltines most restrained vocals, this song of love and faith is a perfect close. Very few albums remain as consistently current and as consistently viable as this one. Though the band would continue to create amazing music (If I Left the Zoo, Redemption Songs, Good Monsters) with very few misses (Much Afraid, Who Are Instead), it was this self titled debut that set the standard.

73. Phil Keaggy & Sundays Child Phil Keaggy


May 4, 2011low5point15 comments

PHIL KEAGGY & SUNDAYS CHILD (1988) Phil Keaggy I guess this album was the result of if you cant beat them, join them. Constantly compared to Paul McCartney during his career, why not just do a Beatles album? What was actually supposed to be a possible semi-regular group, Phil Keaggy & Sundays Child only ever released this one album. But what an album they created! Making up the rest of Sundays Child are Rick Cua on bass, Mike Mead on drums and Lynn Nichols on guitar and vocals. It also may go down in CCM history as the single nicest group of musicians to record a record together.

There is this one odd thing about many Keaggy albums. Those with great songs have a tendency to lack the guitar prowess that many clamor for, while those with great guitar work have tendency to lack quality songwriting throughout. This album is all about the songwriting and is clearly some of Keaggys finest work in the regard. And true to form the album is not filled with blazing and intricate guitar work, though many tasteful and enjoyable examples can be found. There album is also the most band sounding in his career outside of the Crimson and Blue recordings. But that band is supported by a Hall of fame list of musicians including Steve Taylor, Mark Heard, Randy Stonehill, Alwyn Wall, Derri Daugherty, Russ Taff and the always impressive and often overlooked James Hollihan on guitar. Many of the guests also provided songwriting help. The Beatles comparisons are not subtle. They were clearly the inspiration and that adds to the sheer joy of the album. In fact, according to the liner notes, Ringer Starrs drum kit was used on the recording. Older amps, instruments and recording processes were employed to give the album the rich, analog sound. The album kicks off with the mid-tempo rocker, Tell me How You Feel. This tone setter reveals what will follow with the head side bopping beat and Keaggys higher end vocals at times reminiscent of McCartney with abandon. But there is also a clear nod to the Byrds here and throughout. The title track, co-written with Stonehill, was a hit, and for good reason. This song is memorable and smart at the same time. I believe I hear Stonehills vocals in there as well. The two released a wonderful album a year or so ago that employed some of the same musical stylings. A personal favorite, and one of the better rockers on the album is I Always Do. Starting slow before kicking halfway through the verse into a killer rocker that is more reminiscent of Glass Harps poppier side. The song also features one of the more upfront guitar solos and the best hook on the entire album. Without blazing fingers and extended riffs, Keaggy here shows the power of a well controlled, melodic and tasteful rock solo. It should be noted this is a Mark heard penned tune. Im Gonna Get You Now is more early 70s rock and sounds the least like the Beatles as any on the record, excepting the song that follows. But it should be noted that it also provides some of Keaggys best rock vocals. Co-written by Lynn Nichols, the songs edge gives Keaggy the change to explore some vocal styles he hadnt previously. If someone mentioned that Steve Taylor co-wrote one of the songs, my guess would immediately be Bless Be the Ties, and that would be correct. More psychedelic than the rest of the album, this slower, dare I say darker (?) song remains one of the best as well. This Could Be the Moment returns to the more fun rock and roll. This is a good old-fashioned, put the top down on the convertible and hit Pacific Highway. The chorus is a monster with some great harmonies. The instrumental break just pounds with Meads great driving beat and

Keaggys subtle and building guitar work. Even Cua gets a short solo here! This was a great song live I should add as it was extended to include solos from everyone. Side Two kicks off with the loudest guitars and a song co-written by Stonehill called Aint Got No. But this Stonehill is Sandi, the then wife of Randy. Oddly enough, it sounds like something randy would have recorded himself. Its hard to decide which song stands out as the best on such a great album, but Somebody Loves You would have to receive recognition. The acoustic driven rock song is pure Keaggy and one of the songs Keaggy penned entirely by himself. Keaggy here shows his guitar prowess is not just limited to electric and solo, but tasteful and smart acoustic rhythm work as well. This alone gives it more of a Byrds feel. Another of the darker feeling songs follows with Big Eraser. Another Nichols co-written tune, it is perfect fit for something on the Chagall Guevara debut. The vocals are clouded amongst a large rock vibe and huge drum sound. This would make sense given Nichols involvement with the group. The Mark Heard penned Everything is Alright is a true dichotomy. A dark and almost atmospheric verse structure followed by a pop and memorable hook driven chorus. This is also around the time of Ideola, and the style shows through. Ive Just Begun (Again) brings the album back to the joyful musical expressions that dominate the vast majority of the album, while the following Walk In Two Worlds represents the darker, rougher edge. One would have hoped future releases would expand upon this sound as it worked so incredible well here. The album closes with a wonderful version of the traditional spiritual Talk About Suffering. Staring nearly in an acapella (drums only) before adding the band, this version is both beautiful and unforgettable. A fitting ending to a great album. This may be Keaggys finest hour as a songwriter, though another album of his will appear much later in the countdown, it is a real shame this ended up being only a one-off and no further collaborations between these men exists in this format.

52. Jugular Vigilantes of Love


June 7, 2011low5point4 comments

JUGULAR Vigilantes of Love Wow, if ever a title of an album matched the contents it holds it is VoLs Jugular. That is where the project aims and it is where it hits and does not let go until you are spent! I remember the first time I heard this project I was sitting in the office of Frontline Records as the management was trying to decide whether to ink a distribution deal for this project into the Christian Bookstore market. It was probably prudent for the long-term success of the fledgling distribution company that they decided to pass. Despite being the most consistently controversial record label for the time, Jugular was too much for even them. Fortunately for me I received a copy of the record that day and it has remained a favorite ever since! To call Bill Mallonee of Vigilantes of Love prolific is like calling Portland wet. He has managed to release over 30 records containing hundreds of songs in just a 20 year span without losing anything in terms of quality and integrity. He is simply a songwriting machine. Four VoL albums graced this list and many more were under serious consideration and most like should have been included. This should serve as a warning that many people may be offended by some of the content contained on the project, both subject wise and particular language used. Mallonee is a fearless songwriter and his content is as wide as the universe and as honest as can be found, but his use of profanity has caused many to shrink from his work. That is a shame.

I have long gotten past the issue of the usage of certain words and whether a Christian is free to use them within context. Here I believe Mallonee is well within his rights and the contextual usage is dead on and actually not that far removed from similar language used in the Bible, if not sanitized over the years. The Apostle Paul was not one to mince words and felt quite free to use words and phrases that many today would be both surprised by and, Im sure, offended. Throughout this review we will highlight several songs that stand out and the reason they make this record such an important one in christian music history. I do also want to highly recommend that the reader also try and track down a copy of Driving Nails as it contains some of the best content in Mallonees career as well. One of the real beauties of Jugular is its pure simplicity. Guitar, limited drum, harmonica and accordion pretty much consume the entire projectsounds pretty hip and edgy already, doesnt it? Recorded feverishly over a three day period it really is a wonderful work of art. The album kicks off with Weak One Now with a great acoustic hook and poignant lyrics. The accordion is the primary melody carrying instrument here. Mallonees Dylanesque vocals drip with sincerity and authenticity. Whether the world of the Church, words lose their meaning when not matched with the actions to support their truth claims. The album fllows with Songs on the Radio, a blistering critique on the mediocrity of what passes for music on the radio and art within the confines of modern culture. He does so, like Bruce Cockburn, by forcing more words into the lyric than actually fit the song. They were arguing the merits of Freud and Darwin on MTV Oh, the things they foist upon mens minds in the blessed name of free inquiry Buy stock in psychiatric hospitals Soon therell be no vacancy If they see no ones at home out there, then someone else has got to fill that need The songs on the radio still suck, Im afraid It is my turn to drive, and I can barely stay awake The real victim of Mallonees venom is the American culture and buying, selling and pimpingquality content is the victim of commercialisms dominance. Now when a need is nonexistent youve got to create desire Eastern Europe is the most likely buyer Theyve been dying for it, crying for it ever since the wall For syringes, porn, designer drugs, orgasms and shopping malls Wont you pardon my imposition and my lack of tact and flair? I was looking for salvation I was hoping you might tell me where I can smell it on your breath, smell it on your hair I can almost reach and grasp it, but my vision is so impaired

Cos theres dung on the airwaves as far as I can see The following song is Something to Hold On To. In the poet yearns for something thats worthy og grabbing hold, whether it be love, truth or peace, but is continually struggling with the nagging questions and pictures the lengths he is willing to go in order to discover this thing worthy of being held on to. Nicodemus had his questions Thomas had his doubts We have not been left in the dark to work the whole thing out This clinical environment To believe is just to fake I would thrust my hands inside the wound if it will bring you all to faith But Mallonee is not without hope and the listener begins to catch a glimpse of where his trust is found and it is clear it does not reside within himself. I will boast in my brokenness Revel in my defeat I will let you kick my ass if its what you need from me See, pilgrims without weapons sometimes get nailed to a tree They use no anesthetics, but the surgerys guaranteed As Big as Christ bemoans the reality that very few of us ever ask the really important questions. We are relatively content with mediocrity and are afraid to deal with the greater realities. See, I have no motivation I have not any drive Ive got no hunger Fascination with the higher things in life Friends say theyre so happy Friends say theyre well-fed Theyre well-drugged and laid and entertained So beautiful and deadly boring Pardon me if I interpose a question Big as Christ Smaller than your life Love Cocoon is one of the two most controversial songs on the entire despite that fact it does not contain any words that any would find offensive. But rather, with this song, it is all about the content. Using imagery not far from the Bibles own Song of Solomon, Mallonee explores the world of physical, sexual intimacy. Many listeners are unable to get past the first two verses to really realize just what Mallonee is expressing here and what a powerful and glorious gift

intimacy expressed within the marriage covenant is. Mallonee starts with a picture of the passion of intimacy when he sings: Honey, I wanna attack your flesh with abandon I wanna look for your fruits I wanna put my hands on them Pump up the thermostat beneath your skin I wanna uncover your swimming hole and dive right in Im a moth when I fly to the light of my doom You wrap me up in your love Love cocoon But soon the listener understands the direction Mallonee is going as he struggles with the presence of this passion and its origins. Theres an explosion of grace dripping in my bed Is it somewhere else? Is it in my head? Is it weak and tender? Is it rough and ready? Is it fragile and delicate? Is it rock-hard and steady? Mallonee also wants to clearly differentiate his expression from how the world pictures the same act. Now the world keeps on banging, and they come and go Its just a part of their scenery A part of their show But I got this wedding band wrapped around my finger Honey, Ill be your poet Darlin Ill be your singer Mallonee finishes with a true testament to a holy and Biblical form of intimacy to leave no sense of confusion. Some call it freedom Some call it shackle Honey, lets get together and build a tabernacle of holy flesh and holy mirth Well confute the enemy and enjoy the worth You wrap me up in your love cocoon

In the Morning follows with the struggles within the marriage relationship. Unlike the previous, this time it is the struggles of the relationship that takes center stage. The music is somber and matches the content. The folk driven Thorn in Your Flesh is wonderful expression of grace. Mallonee pleads for the listener to reach deep inside the wounds and find Gods grace. Take No Prisoners subtly shows my Mallonee is one of the finest acoustic guitar players out there that no one knows about. The song points to a style that will later become a musical staple for the band. The song of lost ultimately reflects on the loss of the first love in the Christian faith and the constant need for repentance. The more traditional blues influenced Watching the Moonlight reminds me of early Larry Norman and speaks, like much of the album, to the concept of grace, from both a spiritual and emotional perspective. While the more upbeat, but musically similar era-wise blues number Flames of Hell follows with a Gospel message and style similar to the Glen Kaiser blues albums. America starts with a Gospel flared instrumental version of Amazing Grace before merging into a straight folk tune bemoaning the loss of America his father spoke of and loved so much. Rather than the expected liberal attack on the country, the song actually is a call of repentance and return to foundational principles of hard work and faith. The plea is for the Church to be the Church in America and understand her role, but notes her struggle with fame and riches. Where Love Cocoon caused an uproar over the content it was Drunk On the Tears that many found objectionable because of the use of a vulgarity. It is a shame that so many missed this powerful song a song I believe is the very best Mallonee has ever written because of not understanding the use of words within particular content and even the Bibles own use of profane language when needed. Drunk on the Tears starts with Mallonee bemoaning the many different sins of society. From the business and political elite, to the casual drugging of society and the depths at which a woman will go to make ends meet. This is dark and sad set against the back drop of acoustic guitar and harmonica. But it is when Mallonee turns his attention toward religious hypocrisy that songs begins its lyrical tension. Jim and Tammy and Reverend Swaggart They dont look like Jesus, and theyre a whole lot fatter Dont miss the truth for a stupid sideshow Dont confuse the cup with the contents it holds Mallonee then turns the finger back at himself and the struggles he faces and his current state of depravity and his need for the kind of drink that God provides. God, I need a drink, and I need one fast Make it a strong one

One thatll last Have You got anything thats been selling brisk For a soul diagnosed at a terminal risk? At this point the song changes bot musically and lyrically. Instrumentation all but vanishes and the listeners is left Mallonee nearly whispering in his ear about the only truth that bring this peace man so feverishly desires Jesus, lover of my soul Let me to Thy bosom fly Im so weak, and Im so cold And the lambs in the West so speedily die Alibis roll off my tongue Im looking for ruins to hide among I got a soul piled high to excess With the wonderfully useless and the frivolous The praise due Your name evades my lips Theres no helping hand on my fingertips I used to be someone Now Im not worth a shit I got a truckload of things Im trying to forget Then in some real way the Gospel invades the hopelessness and Mallonee traces mans frailty back to the garden and recognizes the promise of hope that was given even in that dark moment that doomed mankind. Since back in the garden on the first page Something about the cradle to the grave The promise is broken More promises made All in the image Ive so defaced Played out on the pages of history Dripping in blood that flows from a tree Where the Father and Son part company Come back together for you and me Finally Mallonee reaches the climax of the reality that it was all paid for at the cross. The cursed man hanging from a tree actually was presenting Himself as divine and kingly. I dont know why You did it What was Your motivation? Crucifixions not a cool sensation

You had something to say, and You started to speak The cross is the place for Your coronation speech Losin It continues with a similar theme, but here Mallonee relents to his struggles and cries out for God just to hold him as he is losin it. Here the image used in the Biblical story of Job and the faith that continued despite the losses. A more upbeat (lyrically and musical) number follows with Words of Love Spoken and sounds like a Derek Webb written Caedmons Call tune. Mallonee longs to have his soul hear the words of love spoken to him by God as he relishesthe truths contained. The album closes with the somber and moving Who Knows When the Sunrise Will Be. The rhetorical question of the title reveals Mallonees ultimate realization that only God knows and controls all things, even those difficult events in personal and human history. He even quotes Martin Luther in the song regarding only Jesus could die for another. The final verse shows a man who is ashamed in humanitys sinful actions and notes the need for a Savior. Abortion, divorce and more topics reveal mans ultimate need for God and Mallonee does not shrink back from offering the only answer to these wretched actions and personal failings. Superlatives lack any real power to perfectly describe exactly how amazing this album truly is. No use trying.

54. Strength The Violet Burning


June 2, 2011low5point13 comments

STRENGTH (1992) The Violet Burning The sophomore release from Southern Californias The Violet Burning became an instant classic. Penetrating vocals, eerie and haunting melodies, and some of the most amazing, insightful and poignant lyrics. While at the same time the record appears to be, in a sense, a worship album. Released in 1992, Strength took a young worship leader, rock singer and poet Michael Prtizl and introduced him to a much larger audience than the Violet Burnings debut, Chosen. If ever a record was about creating an atmosphere it was Strength. In the opening track over one minute of instrumental driven by U2ish guitar sound leads to the psalmist claiming I am nothing/I have no where else to turn with an angst that is both authentic and heart wrenching. Pritzls vocals increase with intensity and remorse as the song builds. Finally the psalmist proclaims over and over There is no one like You! Modern worship may be more memorable, have catchier choruses and work better in a corporate setting, but none have reached the depths of sheer passion and truth as this opening track. The Face of Beauty follows in the same vein with the atmospheric guitar work of Shawn Tubbs swirling, building and moving the listener without a conscious reaction. Here the face of beauty is covered with blood and scars. This song immediately flows into Stay With Me with no break whatsoever. This is not the normal fade in as the previous fades out. this is a hard shift from one to another that works without a hitch. The song itself actually only contains the title as lyrics repeated often throughout, but is primarily driven by amazing guitar work. Undone remains a personal favorite and possibly the most commercially viable song from the album (or ever?). I hope Mike doesnt kill me, but for some reason I hear a bit of Morrisey here and the sweet melody and great string arrangement appears plucked straight from the great British folk and alternative artists like Hothouse Flowers, Morrisey, Bryan Ferry and The Silencers. Lets just be blunt here: As I Am is freakin brilliant! Few songs can last 8 minutes without wearing thin, even fewer ballads can come even close to that length. Starting off Bruce Cockburn type acoustic guitar before the vocals tell the story of Marys Song from the Scriptures. The brilliant song ebbs and flows and winds and consumes. Additional vocal support from My Brothers Mother lead vocalist Jamie Eichler adds to the story that Pritzl delivers with passion and hope. Like the Sun returns to a sound similar to the opening cut and not too far removed from the music Mike Roe was also making at the same time. Great drum driven rock that builds in anthem like ferocity as it moves along. The lyrics keep the worshipful them going. Again it must be stated just how well the strings work with rock music delivered here. The same to be said for the following song, Gold.

The Song of the Harlot is not an eschatological tune about the harlot of Revelation, but rather a telling of the Biblical story of Mary Madeleine weeping at the feet of Jesus. Pritzl relates her need and sorrow to all of us and we relate to this woman in her contrition, humility and appreciation. I will sing Cause I love, my love And my tears will fall Down upon your feet Let me smother them With kisses Let me dry them With my hair If I could be Anyone at all If I could be Anyone at all Let me be The whore at your feet The Song of the Harlot by The Violet Burning For some reason I recall this album having some controversy attached to it, but looking back its really hard to understand why. Lyrics throughout are passionate and distinct. True there are stories of love lost and an amazing cover of the Beatles Eleanor Rigby, but, for the most part, the album maintains a very strong sense of the divine and mans relationship with God. Even what immediately may appear to be a simple song of loss, once the layers have been removed the listener realizes a Scriptural depth to its content. In fact, no other album by an alternative artist in CCM history was content written so much in the vein of the Psalms. This is most evident in the albums closer, Through My Tears. Here again Pritzl reveals himself to be nothing with God and His making the Psalmist whole. There is honesty and ache that accompany every song. Like a few other albums mentioned, the album is best consumed as a whole. Though each song easily stands on its own merit to truly reach the depths of ache and heights of glory the album delivers, one should listen as a whole. I also recommend listening with headphones as there is so much subtly going on here that headphones helps deliver the entire package. I would be remiss if i did not talk at all about some of the most amazing guitar work to be heard on an alternative release. Previously I noted some similarity to early U2 but even that is unfair as there is more a passion and guttural feel to the playing of Shawn Tubbs. Tubbs would also play with another unsung band, My Brothers Mother. The playing comes from the back of the

speakers and then completely surrounds the listener and works as a vocals of sorts as it plays such an integral part in communicating the message Pritzl seeks to deliver. Also it should be noted that there are real strings on this album and it adds to the warmth and passion that cannot be duplicated with synthesizers. The strings weave in and out nearly every song and join the rock band setting to create something nearly otherworldly. Strength has been in and out print so many times that I honestly cant tell the reader whether one can get it on line or not, but I do believe it is well worth the effort. If one is a fan the Cure, the Verve, The 77s, U2 or any of the best music 1990s you cannot avoid having this project in your collection. Ultimately Strength is about the overwhelming majesty and grace of God There is just one thing That remains You, always you If I descend into the depths of hell You will find me And if I climb above the stars You are there Through my tears I know One thing remains You, always you

57. Shotgun Angel Daniel Amos


June 2, 2011low5point4 comments

SHOTGUN ANGEL (1977) Daniel Amos Terry Taylor populates this list more than any other artist. His most important and famous incarnation is as lead singer, songwriter and personality that drives the classic band Daniel Amos. There are a total of eight Daniel Amos project included here and many will complain that the number is not enough. After a straight ahead country debut, Taylor and Company entered the studio with an ambitious desire to create a pop record that was also a concept record. What emerged from those sessions remains a classic from the Jesus Music era and possibly one of the most important album in the history of CCM. It is impossible to avoid any comparisons to the Eagles given the musical composition and vocal styling. But there is as much of a nod to the Beach Boys, ELO and the Beatles as to the Eagles here. There is also several hints as to the future rock and alternative musical direction the band would take. The album stands out for a unique combination of straight ahead Jesus Music on side one and a full rock music concept album on side two with no breaks between songs. Jonathan David Brown was at the production helm for this album, as well as the obvious presence of a strong vision cast by Taylor and the band. Few Christian albums at the time possessed such stellar production, unique creativity and complete and utter abandonment to the art. From the album cover to the final note there is little to complain about here.

How great is the album really? Well consider I consider it one of my all time personal favorites despite disagreeing with nearly every single idea and ideology expressed on side two. Maranatha Music would release this album and there was a direct connection to Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel and the eschatological ideas that populate side two as well as several songs on side one. In fact, Frontline Records released side two as a special reworked concept album called Revelation that included one new song, enhanced production and the inclusion of reading from the book of Revelation by Pastor Chuck Smith.

But the album would also prove to be one of the last recording for a rock band on Maranatha as the label would soon shift directions to childrens and worship music. The album kicks off with Days and Nights a slight country feeling number with more in common with Poco and other California country/rock bands. The longing to be with a loved one while doing what one is called to do is a constant struggle and strain as revealed here. With no break between songs, a much more country Black Gold Fever reveals a more humorous approach to the country music sound. In fact, a few songs similar will find its way onto later albums like Alarma and the Lost Dogs releases. This is hoedown western music. Once again there is only a limited fraction of a second between numbers as Praise Song changes the musical landscape drastically. The Beach Boy type vocals accompany a beautiful praise song, but one much darker than one would expect at the time. One of the real classic from the era is Fathers Arms. This is pure ELO, complete with brilliant and creative string arrangements and guitar styling. No band harmonized like Daniel Amos during that era as the whole band participated. Taylor really began branching out musically and lyrically here with some brilliant changes and the ability to take a common Christian theme and weave twists and challenges into them. Meal is just odd. The song actually may have been, in some ways, a bit ahead of its time. If there was actually ever a time for such a unique time. But it would have never caused an eye to blink on a Swirling Eddies album.

Side one closes with the title track, which is actually a cover tune of sorts. the song was written by Bill Sprouse Jr., who had fronted the Jesus Music band, Road Home throughout the early and mid 70s. Sprouse had passed away right before the recording and Taylor loved the song and it was a perfect fit for the band and the album. The song is easily one of the top 10 Jesus Music songs of all time, with few competitors ranking ahead of it. But the song is purely an Eagles tune from the music to the vocals. But the Eagles comparisons would begin to lose veracity come side two. The popularity of rapture fever, a soon coming Antichrist and the accompanying Great tribulation was at a peak in the late 70s, well before the popularity of the Left Behind book series. Based on some unique understanding of Matthew 24 and the Olivet Discourse and its connection to the nation of Israel becoming a nation, it was believed the 70s was the terminal decade. As a result, there was an intense amount of proclamation and distribution of Rapture Ready materials with an exclusive and particular bent to it at the time. Side two of this project is the musical equivalent of a Rapture Gospel tract based on the Dispensational understanding of the end times. But it is so beautifully crafted, stunningly performed and brilliantly conceived that no differences in positions can detract from singing its praises. The side is one long rock-opera that is joined together with some brilliant string arrangements and the constant theme. the melodies that would populate the side of woven through the Classical string instrumental into called Finale: Bereshith Overture. Like the introit to a musical or play, the song serves as a musical expression or hint as to what is to come. The name itself means the beginning or before the beginning and speaks to the everlasting nature and plan of God through Jesus Christ. Lady Goodbye pictures the rapture of the church only (this is the Dispensational model) and relates it to both Revelation 4 and 12. The song is lush and beautiful piano and string driven number that works well on its one without the rest of the songs on the side. The song builds throughout and one gets the feeling that there was some serious listening to The Beatles Sgt. Pepper while recording this. The Whistler speaks to the coming tribulation now that the church has been taken away. The sounds interwoven are dark and doomsday like. This is purposeful as the beginning pains of the tribulation are approaching. There are only two verses, and short ones at that, as the musical expression carries the mood. We are introduced to a devil and the idea of the four horsemen and Babylon, Gods enemy. This devil character is revealed to be the antichrist as Hes Gonna Do a Number On You reflects the popular understanding a mark that accompanies the coming of the beast or antichrist. More ELO type rock here as the main character (antichrist) becomes the popular political leader he is presumed to be. This song, more than any other, would be a perfect fit on Horrendous Disc.

The lock step marching sound of next, next, next moves into the more funky Better. The lost around during the time believe it is a time of peace and prosperity that the antichrist will supposedly bring with him. There is a delusion cast upon the world as they embrace this utopian, cashless society. Great grooves abound on the number and the guitar work gets heavier as it continues. It also features some of drummer Ed McTaggerts finest work on the album. The sound of a cash register (circa the 1970s) is the last sound before a beautiful string arrangement introduces Sail Me Away. Musically similar to Lady Goodbye, here the sailing away is a longing and hopeful cry of repentance from one who now realized the truth as the previously discussed events were contained in his dream. This song of hopeful repentance is musically juxtaposed to the previous few rock raucous numbers accompanying the tribulation and antichrist. Not overly subtle, but brilliantly conceived. Technically the rock-opera concludes with the previous song, but the album concludes with Posse in the Sky. Not directly connected to the previous songs through the string arrangement, it is the summation of the side as the lyrics serve as a warning of the soon coming rapture of the church and the warning to not be left behind.It is a song of tribulation and judgment presented in a pop country hit. This would also be the last time anyone could compare the band to the Eagles as the following album would shed any comparisons. Brilliantly conceived, meticulously produced and phenomenally performed, the album is a must have for any real collector of Jesus Music or for anyone that may want to understand the era better from both a musical and theological stand point.

58. The Secrets of Time Charlie Peacock


June 2, 2011low5point2 comments

THE SECRET OF TIME (1990) Charlie Peacock While managing Maranatha Village I would receive a phone call the beginning of each month from Charlie Peacock asking me if I needed anymore of the cassettes of West Coast Diaries Vol 1. That helped strike up a friendship. But there was often several years in between conversations. In fact, the most recent conversation I recall was after a Sunday Morning service in Colorado Springs where Charlie had performed the offertory for the Church I was attending. I obviously love a lot of different music and because of connections over the years with many, if not most, of the artist that fill up this countdown, I am not very starstruck. But when it comes to Charlie PeacockI am a dumb fan! I just love what he does and will find buying albums that he produces even if I dont care for the artist. When Exit was just starting out I was invited by label head Mary Neely to a concert in Hollywood with Steve Taylor and this new band Exit was releasing called Vector. What I remembered the most about that evening was this bouncy keyboardist that seemed to play with one hand while dancing with the other in that classic 80s swinging of the arms sort of way. Mary gave me a copy of their album advance that night and I immediately noticed the unique vocals on the songs sung be that keyboardist. They would become my favorites. Not that much later Mary invited me out the LA one more time for a convert of Exit artists as they were looking to sign a mainstream distribution deal. The line-up included Robert Vaughan and the Shadows (discussed previously), the 77s, a new, revamped Vector and that keyboardist,

Charlie Peacock. I left that evening with a blank tape advanced copy of a record called Lie Down in the Grass. WOW! It was several years between the release of Lie Down and the Sparrow release on which we will focus, The Secret of Time. In between was a self titled album on Island records that still has two of my favorite Charlie Peacock songs, Message Boy and Down in the Lowlands. The latter would be covered by Russ Taff on his wonderful Russ Taff project. The Charlie Peacock seemed to come and go without even a notice, but the mainstream Christian debut, Th Secret of Time would make Charlie Peacock a mainstay in Christian music, whether the artist ever intended things to be that way. The Secret of Time combines reworking of several songs from the West Coast Diaries series along with new songs. It may end of being Peacocks most consistent project with jazz, funk and acoustic/alternative all performed with pop sensibilities and Charlies unforgettable, breathy vocals. Though the following album, Love Life, would contain Peacocks biggest hit, In the Light, it was TSOT that contained his most memorable collection songs, though not his best overall effort (much later for that). Big Mans Hat kicks off the project with a funky, driving bass and a killer groove. The struggles of arrogance and pride and their detrimental results are the focus of the song, which showcases Peacocks wonderful ability to twist a phrase. I thought I had to talk like a fool I thought I had to drink like a goldfish I thought I had to lie like a dog, I was one sick cat Was all this because I wore a big mans hat? This struggle with the flesh shows itself in the way in which we approach others, especially those we love. This is true to Peacock as he sings: You got to have big mans thoughts To make a big mans girl And when I finally made that girl, she did not have a clue That I would break her like a matchstick That I could turn young love into the third world war That Id sit in the seat where the devil had sat Was all of this because I wore a big mans hat? The Way of Love looks at real love, the kind described in 1 Corinthians 13. Set to a lighter, jazz influence groove with swirling keyboards and a constant driving acoustic guitar. The song also features some great vocals by the late Vince Ebo. Love is patient, love is kind Thats the kind of love that you give me all the time

I like a love that keeps no record of wrongs Loves me when Im good, loves me when Im not I know whether night or day Ill be waiting for the moment just to hear you say This is the way of love, this is the way of love The acts of selfless and sacrificial love are described in One Thing, and very radio friendly pop ballad with a breezy jazz groove. I would lay down my life for YOU Take YOUR pain and bear the weight of it I would fight for you that you might live I would think by now that its understood I would die for you, oh, you know I would A very nice sax solo leads the instrumental break before the final chorus where Peacocks breathy, Simply Red type vocals take over as the song drives to a conclusion. The song closest to the early Charlie Peacock sound is Put the Love Back Into Love. The topic here is purity and fidelity and the consequences to individuals and a culture when purity is ignored. Sometimes he tries to imagine What it would have been like To be pure in heart, to be innocent On his wedding night Looking back he had no idea All that he gave away But rather than simply bemoaning the loss of innocence and purity, Peacock sees the hope for future generation as he pleas for a more Biblical approach. Maybe this will be the generation That will set their minds on the things above If they set their minds on these heavenly things Then theyve got a chance to Put the love back into love The story here is of a man who through negligence or particular acts almost drives true love away. This may be the most personal song on the project as it gives a glimpse into the background and life the artist. There is a sense of hope even as the subject tries to justify their actions through self-delusion. Through some clever thinking and a strong imagination I could twist the truth into any configuration

And find myself doing things That I never dreamed I could do

Ive know the kind of pain Where you cant catch your breath You sat if this is life Then please bring me death Thank God that that wish I made never ever came true Almost Threw It All Away has been a long time favorite among Peacock fans. The mid tempo ballad with the most unforgettable chorus expresses the love someone else had in Peacock. Relationship, whether physical, emotional or spiritual, are in danger of collapse when they are not worked at. The vocal bridge performed by Ebo and Peacock is worth the price of admission as the song becomes a Gospel delight. It is sometimes easy to forget amidst the brilliant musical performances and unparallelled songwriting, that Peacocks unique voice is really stunning. This is never more evident than on this song. The title track is the most musically unique and creative. Its funky, groovy and in a constant flux. Few artists can combine funk, soul, world music and progressive jazz into a flawless and seamless melody. Peacock can. Dear Friend ended up being one of the biggest hits from the project as it discusses the patience of God as He waits for all that are His to come to faith before His return. Dear friends He is not slow in keeping His promises As some understand slowness to be Keep a watch out, dont lose faith, He said He would come for you Hes gonna come for you, you wait and see One of Peacocks prettiest songs follows with Heaven Is a Real Place. It does sound like something that would have worked on the Island album and possesses a great chorus that should have garnered more radio success. But like many songs on the album Peacocks experimentation lent itself to 5 and 6 minute numbers, which are the death knell to radio success. I have always argued that Drowning Man may be Peacocks finest song. Not just musically, but lyrically here Peacock began to explore is future theological leanings with hope and reverence. The songs is simple in its performance and complex in its ideas. That juxtaposition makes it utterly unique. The album concludes with the funk driven lesson in apologetics, Experience. Peacock discusses the struggle between knowing something as fact and knowing it as true. These are questions of faith, doubt, Scripture, philosophy and how the Lord works with these differing

factors to draw men to Him. This appears to be an early clue to Peacocks later Reformed theology leanings and deeper doctrinal understandings. There is a difference, a qualitative difference Between what I know as a fact, and what I know as truth It stands as a great divide to separate by thinking From when Im thinking foolishly and when Ive understood The facts of theology can be altogether cold Though true in every way they alone cant change me Truth is creative, transforming and alive its truth that keeps me humble, saved and set free We can only possess what we experience Peacock for the necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit to infiltrate the soul of a man and provide the necessary faith to embrace the truths presented. Straight up honesty, thats my obligation Thats the point when I obey the truth without hesitation When faith gains consent of my stubborn will And makes the irreversible commitment real To the Jesus of my journey, to the Christ of crucifixion, Resurrection and redemption, to the Father of mercy, To the God of all comfort Then and only then, then and only then, Then and only then, truth begins its Saving and illuminating work within the heart And not a moment sooner, not one moment sooner Artist, author, theologian, innovator, producer, songwriter. Charlie Peacock is all of this and more. The term artist is thrown around quite loosely, but he is one that truly deserves the title.

60. Warrior Jerusalem


June 2, 2011low5point9 comments

WARRIOR (1982) Jerusalem The very first time I ever saw the Swedish rock quartet Jerusalem live was at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa during one of their famous Saturday Night concerts. I remember being able to see from where I sat the Pastor for the evening steaming and freaking out back stage as the Ulf Christianson, lead singer and guitarist, walked up and down the aisles of the main sanctuary yelling You are Sodom. America is Sodom. The Church is Sodom! I went to hundreds of Calvary concerts during my musical formative years and that remains one of the very few that I can remember nearly in its entirety, along with David Edwards, Resurrection Band, the debut of the Lifesavors and the 77s concert that got the group banned from playing at the Saturday Night concerts. Jerusalem was touring to support their newest rock collection at that time, Warrior. Like the album itself, the night rocked! The first two releases from Jerusalem, creatively titled Volume 1 and Volume 2, showed sparks of musical brilliance and powerful, heavy blues influenced rock, but nothing that could have prepared me for the onslaught that is Warrior. The first two releases were originally written in Swedish and then translated into English. This made for some odd, and nearly unforgivable lyrical expressions, where some things just didnt translate well. It is said that Warrior was penned in English and it shows. the lyrics, though not overtly creative and original had a much better flow and rhyming scheme. But Warrior was more about package and message than creative content.

The albums kicks off with Constantly Changing, one the best rock anthems for its era. The riffs were more akin to something from Bad Company or Deep Purple with a monster hook filled guitar groove. Then comes some of the best drumming for the time. It is a non-stop lesson in how to write a memorable rock anthem. All hook, no dead spots and a great duel lead guitar solo. One of the things I remember most from this album are the drums. Loud. Pounding. Relentless. Nearly every song seemed to have the drums up front and center in the mix. Again, for those unfamiliar with the history of Christian Music, drums were an inconvenience and best left to way back in the mix. Especially in 1981! The other notable factor of Warrior is that there a lot of guitar solos and instrumentals. Most Christian music got right to the message and the musicianship and instrumentation was an afterthought. Not with Warrior. In fact, the title track has an over 3 minute instrumental introduction. And it, like the rest of the instrumentation on this album, is quite good. Loud guitars played with originality and passion. Now it should be noted that Ulfs voice can be an acquired taste. The thick accent trying to emphasize English words makes the voice sound strained at times, but never off key. But as for those who have seen Jerusalem live can attest, Ulfs dialect struggles were made up for with the pure passion of a screaming evangelist with an electric guitar slung over his shoulder. The title track follows with another three minutes minute or so instrumental introduction with a hard rock groove ala Bad Company or even touched of Rainbow. Like much of Jerusalems music on this album, songs are epic in scope and go through many time signature and musical expression changes. When the vocals kick in so does the music! Pilgrim is short by the albums standard at just over four minutes. It is also, in its own way, the mellowest cut on the album. The guitar is not as crunchy and the vocals significantly more restrained. The guitar solo has more in common with Dire Straits (as does the song itself musically) than Bad Company, Led Zeppelin or AC/DC. The only misstep on the album is the quirky Its Mad. What must have seemed like a good idea in the studio and was enjoyable the first few listens becomes childish and annoying with repeated listens. The retelling of the Biblical story of Jericho would have fit better on a childrens Bible story record. The introductory keyboards are out of place and the arrangement is just silly at times. But that one misstep does not deter from the rest of the album. I will note that many people love the song and list it amongst their favorites from the album. Man of the World returns to the heavier rock sound and if Christian radio had a real rock presence this would have worked well as a rock radio single. Again, the drum work here is tremendous and Ulfs vocals are top notch. In fact, it is on songs like this that one can catch a glimpse of the live passion that band brought. The centerpiece of the entire project is the epic (over 12 minute) Sodom. It is more like a minirock opera than a long song. It tells the story of a world that has rejected its creator and the

results. Synthesizer and acoustic piano instrumentation starts the opus in something closer to Kansas than Bad Company. But that moves smoothly into a Blind Faith like bluesy rock. This then builds into straight ahead Robin Trower-like rock grooves with more intense and passionate vocals. Finally, after a blistering and pounding guitar work that compares favorably to Eric Clapton (circa the 1970s) for several minutes, the song slows down as Ulfs vocals take over to proclaim like a prophet, Sodom in the world today/Sweden is Sodom,/Europe is Sodom/America is Sodom. This continues and builds with emotive ferocity until a hymn-like arrangement overtakes the entire scene and brings the epic to a close. Ashes In Our Hands takes quite a while to get going with a very long fade in instrumental, but once it arrives it is relentless and packs a powerful punch. I love the drum accompanied bridge before kicking back into full rock form. The album closes with the token ballad that it appears was a prerequisite for getting an album released on a Christian label. Farewell has an altar call feel musically, lyrically and lengthwise as over six minutes. Even here Ulfs voice will not be tamed for too long as he nearly loses control near the song ends pleading with the listener to seek the Lord while he may be found. Despite only having 8 songs the full album clocks in at over 50 minutes! The length of the songs is precisely what makes the album so incredible. When a band can actually play their instruments at the level at which Jerusalem does, there is no reason to edit the songslet em play!

42. The Front The Front


July 29, 2011low5point7 comments

THE FRONT (1984) The Front When the trivia question is asked as to which Christian artist released the first CD into the Christian market the answer is usually Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith or possibly Carman (it was the 80s you know). But oddly enough the answer is a band that only recorded one album on a relatively independent label called Refuge; the Front. There are very few artist that make this list with only one release to their name. iDEoLa was the brain child of the iconic Mark Heard and Moral Support was fronted by Andy McCarroll who had previously released to solo projects along with other group and duo albums. Same is true for The Front as they would also release a follow-up album under the name What If on RCA to the mainstream market and the band is actually a supergroup or sorts. The mind behind The Front was drummer Bob Wilson who had made a name for himself leading the very popular jazz pop group, Seawind, and also released a pop Christian album with his wife as Bob and Pauline Wilson. The Front would be a departure musically for Wilson as he joined forces with keyboardist/saxophonist Larry Williams (Seawind), former Whiteheart and prolific session guitarist, Dann Huff, amazing young guitar hero, Michael Landau and session and Airplay vocalist, Tommy Funderburk. It would be Funderburk who would shine on this project as he took center stage and blew audiences away with one of the most powerful voices in pop, rock and soul. There is both a

sweetness and sincerity to his voice that combines with a raspy, aggressive passion that sets Funderburk apart. For those unfamiliar with Funderburk more than likely have heard singing background vocals for everyone from REO Speedwagon and Yes to Melissa Manchester and Amy Grant, including a very memorable performance on the latters Wise Up single. The Front was an album for the times as the electronic drum styling was short-lived and dated, but that does not discount the wonderful songwriting, incredible musical performances and poignant and stirring lyrics. Other artists were producing similar musical ventures, including DeGarmo and Key, but none with the pure raw energy packed into 8 songs. And after the first song the electronic drum sound is simply not as noticeable as the initial response. I was able to see The Front perform twice in Southern California, including one show with Leslie Phillips and Benny Hester. The musicianship live was extraordinary even though the band make up was markedly different as a touring band, but included the always impressive John Andrew Schreiner and Seawind members filling out the band. But like the record this was about Tommy Funderburk and his voice. The songs on the album were also unique because they did not have a familiar pop/radio format to them. This was more AOR with pop sensibilities than normally commercial music. Imagine corporate rock like Foreigner but without the repetitive musical indulgences. Funderburks hardedged upper register would normally be a turn off to Christian radio at the time, but for some reason they continued to be embraced by radio and garnered several moderate Christian radio hits. All this while maintaining intensely difficult content to swallow for the modern evangelical radio listening audience. This album was not filled with popular worship dittys and affirming song of tribute to the great things the Christian church has done. rather the opposite it may have been one of the heavier records lyrically for its time. The album kicks off with Its Hard to Take, an impassioned plea to share the Gospel. Funderburk pleads with the audience to share the Gospel to friends and family noting the agony of knowing that many would spend an eternity lost without Christ. Some will put Him down Some just dont understand And we, the keepers of truth Just where do we stand? That there could be a Christ And some will be without Its really hard to say its so To draw the line between reality and doubt And watch them go Its hard to take Til the end of time

Its hard to take, its hard to think That some will lose their lives As much as the lyrics themselves are a passionate plea nothing matches the intensity and raw emotion that Funderburk exudes as he pleads the case of Christ knowing many, quite possibly close to him, will lose their lives. Holy Light follows and contains the most commercially viable track on the project. This is a straight ahead corporate rock single in the vein of Foreigner or REC Speedwagon. A borderline rock worship anthem, Holy Light is probably the most uplifting and hook driven song on The Front. This is a song of redemption and fits perfectly against the previous songs darker and more intense content. In fact, there is a wonderful doctrinal position in the song as it points to finding Christ in the Old testament and revealed in the New Testament. Holy Light, Youre a cloud by day and a fire at night Holy Light, Youre the measure of time between wrong and right And now I know Holy Light would be a hint to Funderburks future work in the modern Praise and Worship field. All Under Him slows things down a bit and sounds musically like it could have been composed by Bob Farrell with its heavy keyboard driven chorus. The song features some amazing backing vocals by Bob Carlisle (Allies), Tata Vega and Andrae Crouch. This anthem is once again a call to evangelism, reminding the audience that the Gospel is for all men. King of Glory is an Easter pop song with the most jazz influenced sound on the project. This could have easily fit on a Chicago album of the same era. Again the focus here are the vocals of Tat Vaga set against the higher range of Funderburk. The gates of Hell, cannot withstand All the mighty power of Gods righteousness Jesus died, but He rose to rule again Hes alive The Church needs to be reminded exactly what the resurrection provides and note the promise that the gates of Hell will not withstand the Churchs attack. This was a far cry from the standard the world is going to hell in a hand basket and were just waiting for the rapture content that dominated the Christian music scene at the time. The Promise, one the heaviest songs on the album, is also the centerpiece for the project. The album contained a printed dedication on the cover to the thousands of unborn aborted everyday in the United States alone. The song also contains Funderburks most impassioned vocals. But this time the content is king. The song starts off by relating the death of the innocents in history, including from the very beginning of time.

As long ago as Cain and Abel Voices crying out to me, never to be found This proof thats laid upon the table Is this what I require of you, their blood upon the ground? Love the children I know their names If you harm them Then Ill know The song then shift to the present as the complaint is made against the current generation and their refusal to do anything about the current slaughter of the innocents. And so the lie remains among you All for being innocent, what a price to pay I promise you I wont ignore it If you know whats going down, look the other way Love the children I know their names If you harm them Ill hold you to blame! At the bridge its Funderburks time to represent a righteous God that will not and does not stand idly by as a nations sins go unheeded. This may also be Funderburks best vocals on the album. Feel the fury as I rage against your land For what youve done to them Everyone of them was precious in my sight I will repay How much longer can you let this madness go Oh, how I loved them so Everyone of them is precious in my sight It hurts me so Love the children The song fades out with Funderburk vamping on top of the repeated choruscan you hear them crying/ Tell me whytheyre crying, theyre dying Moving in a different direction musically, Silent Night follows with a great mid-tempo pop styling, once again similar to Chicago, but with once again poignant lyrics, this time dealing with those on the outside. This is a song about the least of these, and the Churchs reaction to them. Here the chorus makes the point of who it is the Church is called to reach.

As another one falls to the ground Another is left to die Another one calls out is God alive? A baby is left all alone In the midst of a silent night The beautiful and comforting Tonight follows with Funderburks softer side. This is a classic 80s ballad that if it was about a girl would have been a wedding song classic or long-standing radio Top 40 smash. But keeping in the tone of the project the song deals with those whose everyday struggles have left many on the brink and reaching out. But the hope is brilliantly illuminated. Tonight, as the tears of heartache fall Tonight, when there seems no hope at all Tonight, let the God most high prevail And the love of Jesus will carry you tonight The album finishes with the upbeat and stirring, How Long. This song is a simple call from Christ to those who have started to slip away from His love. This, like most of the project, ultimately points to those that claim the name of Christ to do the work of the Great Commission. It also contain Dann Huffs best guitar work on the project. From start to finish, this much too short 8 song album, delivers in every possible way. The very limited release of the Cd has made it an ebay gold mine. Like many great releases of its time it was not really appreciated until much later.

46. To Hell With the Devil Stryper


July 25, 2011low5point11 comments

TO HELL WITH THE DEVIL (1986) Stryper In October of 1986 I was managing Maranatha Village in Costa Mesa, CA. The Village was a very large and influential Christian bookstore with many employees going on to make major contributions to the Christian Music scene. The original editor and publisher of CCM Magazine worked at Maranatha Village where his monthly newsletter (Acts) eventually evolved into the famed and important magazine. Brian Tong, who managed the store right before I took over went on to form Frontline Records with Jimmy Kempner. Even Bob Siemon Jewelery got their start in the store. The Village had built such a long standing reputation, especially in the area of music i was able to negotiate a Pre-Release party on a Friday Night with Stryper to reveal their new album, To Hell With the Devil. The album was to be officially released the following week, but its amazing what an order for 5,000 copies will do to bend the rules. Being a Christian Bookstore I had to order the product through the Christian distribution company, which was The Benson Company. When the several skids of LPs, cassettes and CDs arrived I opened them up immediately to a great horror. The wonderful, edgy and graphic album artworks shown above was replaced by a bland black packaging with a Stryper logo and the title in red.

I was appalled, especially since all of the promotional materials I received from the management company that I had become good friends with had the cooler cover and because I knew the Tower Records around the corner would have the better cover and I would lose sales, be embarrassed and have to answer to the thousands who would show up that night. I immediately called a friends at Enigma Records, the bands record label, and she worked some deals behind the curtain so i could get the better cover at the event. Again, its amazing what 5,000 copies can accomplish. The better cover arrived the day of the event. We decided to keep both order and place them side by side at the front register so that anyone troubled by the graphic cover would have the alternative option. I remember selling about 100 copies of the boring cover that night while selling all 5,000 of the graphic. I should note that the guys all showed up on time and stayed until every autograph was signed, which made for a very long night as the line went through the store, out the front door and nearly down to the end of the street. To Hell with the Devil is the most important metal album in Christian music history for many reasons. First off, it is also one of the best selling records in Christian music history with over two million units sold. Second, the album was leaps and bounds above anything the industry had seen production wise. the sonic quality of THWTD is staggering. The songwriting is top notch for the genre, the promotion was unparalleled with several videos consistently being among the most requested videos on MTV and the record just flat out rocked! After the ominous sounding instrumental opener, Abyss the album kicks into full frontal assault with the title track. What Stryper may have lacked in lyrical depth and theological precision they made up for with pure passion and zeal for the Gospel. In a musical form noted more for pentagrams, the Devil Horns sign and comic book occultic imagery, Stryper replaced with Bible verses, on stage prayers and this very anti-Satan anthem. Speak of the devil Hes no friend of mine To turn from him is what we have in mind Just a liar and a thief The word tells us so We like to let him know Where he can go To hell with the devil To hell with the devil The trademark dual lead and harmonizing guitars and overly sweet (no pun intended) backing vocals are a central focus on Calling To You, is a simple song of appreciation to God for the daily gifts and the eternal promises. The wonderful harmonies that finish the album are more akin to Styx than more traditional heavy metal.

Free drives things a little harder with a strong Gospel call appealing to the will of the listeners to receive the gift of salvation is Jesus Christ. Its Oz Foxs guitar work though that makes the song a stand out. They sugary sweet power ballad, Honestly follows. This is a Stryper trademark ballad and became the biggest hit in Strypers career. What sounds initially like a love song used in many a rockers wedding, is actually a song of commitment sung from Gods point of view. The formula many other glam metal bands would eventually follow are all right here in those song. Romantically pleasant piano intro for the first verse, light drums added into the second verse and big crunchy guitars and pounding drums kick of the chorus. Chorus ends with angelic choir backing vocals. Rinse and repeat. But man, it works! The key to being authentic rockers is that the ballad must either be the last song on the album or followed immediately followed by something fast and hard! The Way fits the bill just nicely and contains some of Michael Sweets edgier vocals. The Sing Along Song possesses a more breezy grove while maintaining a strong rock edge. this is anthem rock defined. Limited verse structure and a chorus of exclusively oohs and aahs make for a vocal driven song with huge harmonies and a long time concert favorite. Holding On is almost like a Beach Boys put through a meat grinder and fuzz box. Immediately melodic and fun. But it also contains some of Sweets better lyrics. Everyone has been hurt before love will come and go When you put your faith in something so unsure Never happy and wanting more love will never grow Till you put your faith in something thats secure Im holding on to the One from above The One thats secure the one that has cured My broken heart with perfect love Despite the big hair, spandex pants, make up and theatrical trappings of the glam, big hair metal vibe, Stryper appears to be more influenced by the likes of Styx and Journey than Ratt and Poison. This makes for overall better songs, melodies and lasting results, especially for the more mid tempo songs like Holding On. The more metal influence, though, does return on Rockin the World, which is at least fitting given the content. This song is all bout an apology for Stryper. Never want to push you cant you see We just want to spread the news In a different way Rock the world but rock it with the truth

All of Me is the second power ballad project and this one really is more of a love song. In fact, despite Honestlys popularity as a wedding song, it is All of Me that was written as a wedding song. This one lacks the bombastic bridge of most power ballads and works well as simply a love song. For that reason, it is also the most forgettable song on the record. THWTD closes with a great rocker in More Than a Man. Strong vocals, great guitar work and a very direct Gospel message. God, I will follow you because you died for me Gave to me your life to set me free Anyone who asks shall receive Jesus in your heart Its time for you to start Giving God all the glory To Hell with the Devil paved the way and made the very popular metal scene in Christian music possible. Bands like Bloodgood, Shout, Vengeance, Deliverance and a host of others were able to expand the genre, but it was THWTD that knocked the door down. When CCM Magazine did their Top 100 countdown THWTD was the only metal album to make the countdown. This is partly based on the magazine and book editors true lack of understanding the genre, but it also pointed to the importance and durability of this great album.

47. Horrendous Disc Daniel Amos


July 21, 2011low5point12 comments

HORRENDOUS DISC (1978/1981) Daniel Amos give up repent good riddance and all Gods blessings on the band that wont go away Camarillo Eddie (The Swirling Eddies) But nestled directly between the classic country rock album (Shotgun Angel) and the ground breaking, fan losing new wave, punk album (Alarma) albums is one of the most interesting, frustrating and glorious albums in the Daniel Amos catalog. The story behind its creation, release and the aftermath that followed it is the stuff of legend. Broken promises, delays, changes, false starts, lost friendships and ultimately artistic achievement that is appreciated now more than 30 years later than it ever was at its release. The album is also a bridge between two eras in Christian Music. Shotgun Angel is a flagship release in the Jesus Music annals while Alarma brought Christian Music into the 80s as current as anything available in the mainstream market. But the band had to travel from one place to another and Horrendous Disc tells that story.

But it is not only for historical significance that Horrendous Disc is included; it also remains a testament to the artistry and songwriting superiority that is the possession of Daniel Amos frontman, Terry Scott Taylor. These are some of the most finely crafted rock songs in Christian Music history. There is depth, humor, caustic wit and deep-rooted faith at its core. The roots of Horrendous Disc began many years previous when Terry Taylor and Steve Baxter were part of an acoustic quartet in Southern California called Jubals Last Band. After playing coffee houses, Church basements and local park amphitheaters, the band recorded a demo tape. After some line-up changes which included the addition of future Daniel Amos members Marty Dieckmeyer and Jerry Chamberlain the band auditioned for Maranatha! Music in hopes of landing a record contract with the Calvary Chapel subsidiary. Another band had a similar name and both bands decided to change their names. One band became Gantlet Faith and the other, featuring Terry Taylor, chose the name Daniel Amos. Both bands were signed to Maranatha! Music and while Gentle Faith only recorded one album before front-man Darrell Mansfield went on to a long and successful ministry and career, it would be Daniel Amos that would make the greater impact on Christian Music. Before recoding their first full-length release Daniel Amos recorded several singles that would appear on different Maranatha Music compilation albums including Aint Gonna Fight It and the long time favorite ode to marital fidelity, Happily Married Man. Both would be added to a special CD-reissue of the classic album. The first Daniel Amos album (released in 1976) was a self-titled, country music classic that sounded more like The Eagles than Willie Nelson, and that sound was difficult for the band to later overcome. Another never-ending problem was that many fans thought Terry Taylor was Daniel Amos and would thank Mr. Amos for their great music and ministry. It was also during this time that the band would wear these huge 10-gallon cowboy hats that I often thought was more parody than possessing any real affinity for the musical genre. There are so many amazing songs from this album that briefly discussing the album does it no justice. Highlights include the Jehovahs Witness critique, Jesus is Jehovah To Me and another apologetic tune, The Bible. The latter sounding more like The Eagles than just about any other Daniel Amos song. William, Losers and Winners and Walking on the Water would remain favorites for fans for many, many years. There were also songs that were so hokey that the listener cant help but believe they were part parody. Ridin Along comes straight from dusty prairie cowboy movie and Dusty Road follows with the same feel. Taylors wry sense of humor would be visible in songs like Abidin and Skeptics Song. I noticed that from the several times I saw Daniel Amos in concert that those more hokey songs would be reworks drastically and come across as significantly more edgy and less country. Hidden amongst the large hates, spurs and 1-3 beats were great lyrics and amazing vocal harmonies that would remain a staple for many years, even through the alternative, new wave

albums. No matter the musical genre the band progressed through the heart of the bands sound was always more Beatles than Eagles or Talking Heads. The Beatles influence would show itself more on the follow-up Jesus Music classic, Shotgun Angel than what was explored on the debut. Daniel Amos would begin recording Horrendous Disc in late 1977 and early 1978. The album was finished and the masters were brought to Maranatha! Music. At that same time Maranatha! Music decided to no longer release albums by rock artists and concentrated primarily on the new Praise and Worship line and childrens music. Word Record acquired the masters from Maranatha! in early 1978. They eventually leased them to Larry Normans Solid Rock label. This put Daniel Amos in friendly territory with artists like Mark Heard, Alwyn Wall and longtime friend Randy Stonehill. It also started the longest and most frustrating three years in the bands tenure. During that time Terry and band would build a long-lasting friendship with Randy Stonehill which included several long tours where Daniel Amos would serve as Stonehills band as well as perform their own set. Terry would produce three albums for Stonehill, the most notable being Stonehills classic Equator. Those famous tours were known as the Amos and Randy Tour. During those tours and other concerts they would begin playing songs from Horrendous Disc. They would continue to play those songs for three years with no album to support. Test pressings of the album were sent out to radio stations in 1979 and also sent to the band to sell at concerts where I obtained my first copy. The album contained a different mix and different order of songs. Those issues would be the least of their problems as the album would still not be released for another two years. This issue (along with others too ugly to address) caused a rift with Norman that would never be healed. Even in 2000 when Norman finally released the album on CD it contained bonus cuts by Norman that fans (myself included) hated. And when Taylor approached Norman in 2006 to rerelease the CD as a Deluxe version Norman agreed, but then backed out and released another horrible version of the album, this time as a CDR with a horrible artwork copies. The album did officially get released in 1981. About one week before their follow Alarma! hit the stores. Alarma! was the first of an amazing 4-part album set that includes many of Daniel Amos greatest work. Each album contained a continuing story and lyrical content that matched. By the time the four album set was finished the band would have gone through four record companies (one for each release) and a name change of sorts. The first two albums used the entire name, Daniel Amos, while the third used the DA with a small font for the name and the final album, Fearful Symmetry, would sport only the DA moniker. Those that discovered Alarma before they ever heard Horrendous Disc must have been utterly surprised the listener. Without the knowledge of the transitional album Alarma was shocking to say the least.

Musically Alarma and the entire series would find itself squarely in the forefront of the burgeoning Christian punk/new wave scene. Others came right before and after, but few matched the lyrical precision and musical chops of DA. Carrying the banner of both a musical genre and a lyrical assault must have not been easy. Daniel Amos would go to create some of the greatest and most memorable music in Christian music, though never receiving the recognition they so richly deserved. But it really points back to the album that went through the greatest trials to be heard. There is nothing horrendous about the album itself, though the story behind it most surely is. By the time Horrendous Disc came to be the band had expanded to an official 6 members with permanent addition of keyboardist Mark Cook and percussionist Alex MacDougall. MacDougall had previously toured with major named mainstream artists and his impact was immediate felt. The album starts with probably the hardest rocker in Daniel Amos history. I Love You #19 sound like nothing the band had recorded previously, not anything like what would follow. Though much of the album would fall in a Beatles, Beach Boys and even Pink Floyd sound, this song kicks off with rock guitar riffs more akin to KISS and ZZ Top. Taylors voice is synthesized taking on the out of the world image the cover presented. Now when I say it real pretty in a pretty rhyme Does your mind get cloudy thats a dirty crime Well, Does it do things any good to tell you That Im standing here because- I love you Well, does it do things any good to tell you That Im standing here because- I love you Does it do things any good to tell you That Im standing here because- I love you- yes I do I said I love you- love you- yes I do The song would remain a concert opener for quite some time and had a following of fans for the three years the album lived in limbo. Hound of Heaven, with its Pink Floyd like guitars and atmospheric background instrumentation sets the musical tone for the rest of the album. This song concept, taken from the classic poem by English poet Francis Thompson, reveals the undying hunter nature of God as He follows after the soul that tries to flee. Taylor presents the seeker of souls as one who through the common aspects of ones life finds the pressure from the Almighty to see His grace. We got lost among the stars Hollywood flash, cash, mansions and cars Deep sea diver lear flyer Will this thing go to the moon? Give me elbow room, and for heavens sake Take this aching away

You cant run, you cant hide, from the hound of heaven Youre free to choose, can you refuse the seeker of souls (Near Sighted Girl With Approaching) Title Wave tells the odd story of approaching doom that is missed by those too consumed with their own lives to see what was coming. The music, not surprisingly. has a touch of the Beach Boys with a wicked twist. It even includes a Latino inspired bridge complete with Spanish lyrics. Taylor here shows his wry wit and command of the language of songwriting in describing this young girls ignorance and obliviousness to her present situation. Up in her room she gets out of the sack Goes down to the beach and lies on her back In the sunshine all day, whats the hurry? She dreams of long youth, no wrinkles or fat No thoughts of bedpans or deathbeds And that keeps her smiling all day, whats the hurry? The song concludes with the inevitable results that serve as a warning. Even the guys with muscles cried, The tide is rising! And all the folks with porsches made it up to the cliffs A group of kids were praying that Im sure went up to heaven But no one tried to surf Its a tidal wave, its a watery grave She really tried to swim, she couldnt in the end Taking musical inspiration once again from the Beatles and Beach Boys, as well as arrangements inspiration from Queen, Sky King (Out Across the Sky) is either referring to personal eschatology at death or end times eschatology with the Resurrection. Its beauty both musically and lyrically is captivating from its keyboard opening to its harmony driven closing. Aint no packing bags when your voyage is to the son Aint no last good-byes when heaven calls you on Its hard to believe this dreary night is gone But I can feel its meant for everyone This is not a dream, youve taken flight, far above the world You walk on clouds, you ride the light, far above my head Out across the sky, out across the sky Im out across the sky

After a UFO sound effect and spastic percussive introduction by MacDougall, On the Line talks about the many different ways God tries to reach mankind whether its the stars in Heaven, the song on the radio or the Bible (a letter He signed with love). Hes got some bulletins on the radio You turn the beatles up instead Why do you settle for strawberry fields His talk of heaven could fill more than your head And when you draw back the curtain Hell paint a pretty picture for you And if a billion stars dont convince you baby He sent some letters signed His name with love too You know He calls you long distance No doubt Hes dropped you a line Right now Hes saying it on your Hi-fi Quit talking and listen a while Midway the song changes musical directions and has more a late 70s rock/funk feel with a great percussive work by MacDougall, before returning to the original vibe and closing out. The album is filled with these great changes and shows that Taylors songwriting prowess is not just limited to the lyrical content, but to the musical arrangements as well. The only song I ever remember playing on KYMS overnights was I Believe In You. This is the only song that could have fit on Shotgun Angel as it has a real Eagles feel to it, but with a stronger jazz influence. This song of unbridled faith is as beautiful lyrically as it is musically. Sometimes just got Your letters to read These promises Youve asked me always to believe Then despite the feeling, Im saying I believe in you I believe in you I believe in you, when the night comes Cause the light comes too, I believe in you I believe in you, and that youre coming back To make my dreams come true The only two songs not written and sung by Taylor are Man in the Moon and Never Leave You. The coincidentally appear back to back on the album. Both maintain the distinctive sound of the rest of the album and are creative expressions of faith. Man in the Moon revels in its John Lennon glory with wonderful keyboard arrangement and nasally vocals. The harmonies and melancholy feel also show hints of Bowie. Oddly, it always seems like it should have been longer, or was meant to be part of a larger musical experiment.

Never Leave You is more Beach Boys than Beatles and would have fit nicely on the classic Pet Sounds with its backing vocal harmonies and darker rock edge to the pop. Though it should be noted that Taylors work seldom strays too far from his Beatles influence as the finish to the song reflects. The album closes with the title track. This epic has the feel of Queen with a subtle opening verse followed by tight harmony vocals and musical changes throughout. The story of man whose sins may be private in his own household are lived out before a God that sees and knows all. There is no escape from God who sees that which is done in public and in private. The nightmare of the subject of the song is that no matter where he turns, whether on the radio or on a billboard along the highway, his sins are displayed for all to see. The show is over, he pours himself a drink Best to forget about it Put a record on the stereo and try not to think And the record plays This is your life, you beat your wife Well spare the gory details and simply say Recording artist God hears it all Recording artist He has total recall Your sneaky moves are right here in the grooves The album closes with the eerie warning and a definite uncomfortable feeling with a wall of sound vocal droning on and causing the listener to reflect on all they have just heard. It is a powerful way to end this amazing record. It is a shame that this album and the band went through all that it did. I often wonder if it had been released properly, with a strong marketing support and more than a week before Alarma! hit just what kind of impact it could have made. When one considers it was three years late it is amazing that it sounded as current and progressive as it did when it was released. It does show what an amazing and important band Daniel Amos is and was that an album left on the shelves for three years and is now over 30 years old is still as vibrant, fresh and original as ever.

48. Seeds of Change Kerry Livgren


July 21, 2011low5point7 comments

SEEDS OF CHANGE (1980) Kerry Livgren After several years of seeking truth in any and all possible spiritual, philosophical and ideological ways, Kerry Livgren leader and founder of the famed progressive, classic rock band Kansas came face to face with the creator of the universe. During a tour with 70s pop superstar group Ambrosia and unheralded Louisiana rockers Le Roux, Kerry met those bands lead singers David Pack and Jeff Pollard, respectively, both devoted Christians. Pack, and Pollard began to minister to, debate with and share the Gospel with Livgren. In High School I dated the niece of David Pack and got to meet and speak with him on several occasions and was able to gather the story from his perspective. Packs and Pollards impact on Livgren and Livgrens eventual conversion had a tremendous impact on the quality and validity of the Christian music industry. This blog is not intended to be biographical sketches of the artists but rather a review of some of the most important albums in CCM history. But when it comes to Kerry Livgren the background has as much of an impact on the albums he created as his actual musicianship. This is especially true of Seeds of Change.

Kerry Livgren was always very spiritual and his search for enlightenment, spiritual connection and divine truth led him down many paths. Those differing paths weaved their way into many of Livgrens writings with the supergroup Kansas prior to his conversion and it is why many Christians find his earlier works intriguing. They contained a mans search and struggles and it is very powerful when understood within that context. It is always why there were many spiritual insights in songs like carry On Wayward Son, Dust in the Wind and Portrait (He Knew). Upon becoming a Christian Livgrens lyrical content made an immediate shift to include a more blatant Christian message, but one still wrapped in powerful symbolism and imagery. The first Kansas release to contain post-conversion Livgren lyrics was Audio Visions. The album is, in some ways, an intriguing platform of Spiritual Warfare and, for the same reasons, a very disjointed project. The reason being is that the other primary songwriter for Kansas was lead singer Steve Walsh. Walsh was a committed non-Christian and it was obvious to see the difference in content of the lyrics between the Livgren and Walsh penned tunes. A few other members of Kansas, most notably drummer Phil Ehart, also had embraced Christianity and friction within the band was obvious. In order to find a solace and outlet for his more blatantly Christian material Livgren worked a deal with his record company (CBS) to record a series of solo projects that would not conflict musically or comercially with Kansas. This lead to the release of the project being reviewed here, Seeds of Change. Written at the same time as many songs from Kansas Audio Visions project though recorded and released before it, this project did not stray far thematically or even musically from the Kansas sound, though it hearkens more to the earlier, more progressive and classically influenced music of the earlier Kansas recordings than the more commercially sounding Audio Visions and Vinyl Confession projects. Many considered the album a departure from the Kansas sound, but, in actuality, it was a return to the much earlier Kansas albums. Kerry also pulled out all the stops to make a record loaded with a whos who of classic and hard rock luminaries at the time as well as a collection of friends who had made an impact on his spiritual journey. Those lending their support for the project included the aforementioned Pollard and Pack as well as Barriemore Barlow (Jethro Tull), Ehart and Walsh (Kansas), Mylon LeFevre and the first lead vocals from Livgren himself. But for anyone familiar with the project the most notable and, by far, most controversial part was the inclusion of Ronnie James Dio. Dio, arguably one of the top two or three greatest hard rock/heavy metal vocalist, was, at that time, the lead vocalist for Black Sabbath. Dio also performed with Richie Blackmore in Rainbow along with having a very successful solo career. His inclusion was considered blasphemous by many evangelicals and many simply could not understand why Livgren would use a singer many believed as a Satanist due to his connection with the previously mentioned bands. Ironically the two songs Dio sang were Mask of the Great Deceiver, a very anti-Satan song and Live For the King, possibly the most blatantly Christian song on the record. I recall attending a concert in San Diego with Livgren and Phil Keaggy (yeah, I know, that some serious

6 string credentials in one building) in which there was a Q&A time following the concert. It did not take long before someone asked Kerry about Dios inclusion on the project. Livgren responded, If God can use Balaams donkey, He can use Ronnie James Dio! But what about the album itself? Despite only having seven songs the album last nearly 45 minutes. The first track is the Pollard vocal lead Just One Way. This may be the most testimonial in nature as Livgren penned All my life I looked for something real Place to place I wandered restlessly I just needed something I could feel And when I found the Truth it set me free Just one way, just one way, just one way From the dark to the Light theres Just one way The track itself is dominated by Barriemore Barlow of Jethro Tull fames amazing drumming. It is constant pounding fills that track with creative rhythms that demand attention. Pollards powerful vocals makes one wonder why Le Roux never broke through to the mainstream. It should be noted here that Pollard when on to become a Pastor and published a very interesting, popular and controversial essay on modesty called, Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America. The blatant testimony of Just One Way is followed by the previously mentioned Mask of the Great Deceiver. The reader would be hard pressed to find too many fans of this album that do not think this is by far the best tune on the project and possibly one of Livgrens greatest works. Clocking in at nearly 8 minutes the song starts with an eerie, atmospheric keyboard and drum work the moves immediately into a rock version of classical music a Livgren staple. The masterpiece then settles into a bass driven, blues influenced rock anthem. The music perfectly matches the content of the lyrics. It is nearly two minutes before Dios vocals take center stage and from there he completely dominates the song. There are not enough adjectives to describe just how amazing his voice is within this genre. This may be one of his best performances as well. He blasts the lyrics He will fill up your ears And hell dazzle your eyes But dont believe what hes saying Cause hes the father of lies In your heart, dont you know that hell betray you And in the end he will drag you away Till all the world is cryin for the judgment day And hes fallen how hes fallen From the height of the morning star Though his lights still shining brightly Its the mask of the great deceiver

Kansas vocalist Steve Walsh takes lead vocal chores on How can You Live and, not surprisingly, this tune may be the most Kansas-like of the entire project. But in it, this devoted non-Christian encourages the listener to look to the Word Walsh would leave Kansas soon after recording this song for Livgren. Perhaps the oddest song is the very bluesy Whiskey Seed. The musical background is southern, Louisiana blues with steel and slide guitar taking center stage with, of all things, an harmonica. The background chant-like vocals support a duet with Mylon LeFevre and Livgren himself. This warning against the dangers of alcohol fits the bluesy vocal stylings of LeFevre perfectly. In fact, this was the best vocals from Mylon since the late 60s and much better and more authentic than what he would do performing with his band, Broken Heart, making Christian pop rock during the mid 1980s. The second Dio vocal tune follows. Live for the King once again shows why Ronnie James Dio is simply a master blues/hard rock master. Starting slow and building with a passion Dio scream for the listener to live for the King! This is the most evangelical tune on the project. The ending to the song is one that builds to a crescendo and is most certainly worth the listeners patience. Dio is joined by a choir of angelic voices singing Live, Live, Live for the King. On top of the repeated chorus Dio vamps with powerful voice encouraging the listener to: Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice Its an easy choice Time as come to sing Were gonna walk, walk with the King Open your, open your eyes The writings on the wall, dont you realize On Down to Core Kansas sound man, Davy Moire, make his debut with some pretty impressive and raspy vocals. Backing Moire are some very eerie, atmospheric female vocals that end up belonging to Livgrens wife, Victoria. The mid tempo, blue influenced song stops at mid point and turns into a very aggressive and progressive rock tune with blistering guitar work from Livgren. Just as quickly the turn returns to the mid-tempo bluesy feel with amazing horns courtesy of Bobby Campo of Le Roux. Seeds of Change finishes with the apocalyptic Ground Zero. Taking his cue from the popular eschatological view of a soon coming return of Jesus Christ and comparing it to the impact point of a nuclear device, Livgrens finale is both cautionary and worshipful. David Pack of Ambrosia took the lead vocals and really shines here. This is an epic tune lasting more then 8 minutes. Ground Zero is keyboard driven song with several musical interludes containing piano solos and Livgrens amazing guitar work. The mid-section instrumental slowly builds with classical inflections and angelic choir until Packs vocals return with the closing refrain of

Across the sea and far away, the eyes of all the world Await the Passion play The final act at last has begun, the new is born The old is bound to pass away No more turn of the pages And now the hope of the ages For all the bondage is broken, all who see The day is coming when men will look to the skies The consummation of all who realize (We are) Waiting for Ground Zero The song then closes with hymn-like fanfare resembling Kansas Magnum Opus. This is the most classical sounding tune on the entire project and, in some sense, Livgren says more about the majesty and power of the Lord by remaining silent lyrically and letting his music speak for itself. The final two minutes contains such a powerful instrumental refrain of majesty and glory that even words would not be able to convey the same truth. No one who has any appreciate for classic or progressive rock should be without this project. With Seeds of Change Livgren had just begun to shape and influence the Christian music scene. The influence of this project was felt throughout the industry and a new standard was set for quality and musical expression. The young Christian rocker had a voice in the mainstream music market and CCM would not be the same thereafter.

39. Russ Taff Russ Taff


September 29, 2011low5point20 comments

RUSS TAFF (1987) Russ Taff At a time when the CCM world was rather complacent and, wellboringone of its most traditional names released a truly authentic, game-changing album that would mark his finest accomplishment in a stellar and decades long career. And NOBODY saw it coming. After the release of his sophomore, mega-hit, Medals album, it was commonly expected that Russ Taff would return with Medals Part 2. After several years in the CCM MOR leading the Imperials and two very successful solo projects, the CCM world was due for quite a shake-up. And it could not have come at a better time. Carman was the best selling male artist and Michael W. Smith was quickly leaving his progressive Big Picture behind and returning to his more pop sensible roots. Steve Taylor was a fringe artist and mainstream CCM was just flat out style. Then I pushed play and heard Shake for the first time. From the dark and brooding album cover, to the dark and brooding musical and lyrical expressions, this was not a happy CCM album by any stretch and one of its most important artists was testing the waters of true artistic expression and winning over fans in droves. The album would also cover several edgy and important artists like Michael Been and Charlie peacock and give new life to those artists, given them a platform in CCM they previously were denied.

The album was long by the days standards, with several lengthy rocking jams and moody and introspective musical soundscapes. This matched the lyrical and artistic direction of Taff. Before addressing the individual songs from the album I want to point out that my initial reaction to this album has not changed in nearly 25 years. It is loud! Very loud! It possesses some of the most impressive drum sounds in CCM history and a low end that had not been approached before production-wise. There is simply a lot going on in this album and is real headphone delight! All of previous criticism of jack Joseph Puigs usually heavy-handed keyboard approach disappeared instantly. The album kicks off with Shake, a driving song borrowing its content from the book of Hebrews. The songs message and medium were a perfect fit. Dann Huff just blazes here and elsewhere on the project while Nathan East and Jackie Street share bass duties. Huff leads a stellar cast that never misses a note. Walk Between the Lines is the only song that may have fit comfortably on Medals but the musical arrangement and performance would have made it sound edgy by comparison. Taffs vocals really shine on ballads and mid-tempo rockers because of the diversity it is allowed to explore. The song ended up being the first big hit from the project as radio was all over it. A great of Taffs passionate vocals carrying an otherwise nice ballad is Believe In Love. What would be a forgettable song in the hands of most other performers becomes a memorable, borderline classic with Taff. The instrumental bridge is pure Springsteen passion with a killer sax solo. Taffs version of this Chris Eaton penned tune is vastly superior to the original. But the albums shift from the past truly hits stride on the cover of charlie peacocks Down in the Lowlands. Where Peacocks version is rather electronic and sparse, the arrangement here is full, groove-driven and sultry. Its dark and mysterious. The world music influence carries a great instrumental arrangement and the backing choir as the song builds with Taff on top is near perfection. Peacock adds backing vocals here, much like he would later do on DC Talks cover of his In the Light. The darker, more introspective feel to the album continues on, The Love Is Strong. Here again, the formulaic 3 minute hit radio arrangement is abandoned for an over 5 minute slow build that ultimately satisfies. But here again we find Taff singing on top of a great backing choir that carries the song. The centerpiece of the album, and the greatest surprise is a cover Michael Been and The calls classic, I Still Believe. When i was first told that Taff would be covering the song i was more than a bit skeptical. I always admired Taffs vocal prowess, but sincerely doubted he could carry the song emotional intensity. I was wrong! Though I will always prefer Beens gut-wrenching performance, Taff is no slouch. As the song builds to its unbelievably intense climax, Taff is more than up to the task. Even haters of CCM have admitted taff took major steps to relevancy and respect with this performance.

The much too short classic southern Gospel tune, Steal away features James Hollihan on steel guitar. MUCH TOO SHORT! Though the song would hint at projects to come. (Living on th) Edge of Time is the only hiccup on the entire project for me. Its not that the song or performances are in any way weak, it just sounds out of place and does not live up to the rest of the albums high standards. If it was on any previous Taff project, it would have been a stand out. Higher brings a great electronic groove with unique guitar and melodic tones. It is also builds into a great romp with the help of Rebecca Sparks. The vocal play between Sparks and taff as the song ends is just tremendous. Sparks is an often overlooked vocalist and possesses one of those great voices that deserved better. The brooding and groove oriented Breathe life into me carries a David Pack type melody. It is one that doesnt grab you as much as slowly draw you in and surround you. The subtle guitar work stands out here in the instrumental bridge. Healing Touch closes out the album with another great ballad that showcases Taffs powerful vocals. You do not just hear Taff on the song, but rather you feel him. A perfect close to a nearly flawless project. The great joy about the album is not that it is filled with hit after hit, but rather just the opposite. it was not a radio friendly hit fest, but an authentic, real and unforgettable project that stays atop of the best CCM albums ever created by a mainstream Christian artists.

40. War U2
September 16, 2011low5point7 comments

WAR (1983) U2 For those who experienced the War tour can attest to the passion, praise and profound personal impact those concerts provided. Part rock and roll show, part worship experience. There was a genuineness to the event that seemed to fade as the band became rock stars over the following years. The innocence of the first two albums had begun to fade, but the heart on the sleeve militancy was still there. Born out a friendship with limited musical abilities U2 went on the be the biggest band in the world. Humble beginnings in Dublin, Ireland led to worldwide fame and acclaim. Four lads who individually could not carry a band formed a group that truly personifies the sum is greater than the parts. Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam have remained the only members of the band since the release of their first single in 1979. Drummer Larry Mullen is quoted as saying that his original hoped were to name the group, The Larry Mullen band, but minutes after Bono entered the room all of those hopes were dashed. Larry, Bono and Teh Edge would all soon become involved with a charismatic Church in Dublin and that original connection would have influences that would last until today. The spiritual roots run very deep in Ireland, especially during the time. But for the most part in showed itself in political agendas. But for Bono and the boys it showed itself in compassion, mission and pacificity. One critic would state that U2 take pacifism to a military level. No matter

what critics of the band state about Bono and the bands spiritual position, it remains true that the images and content used even until today are deeply rotted spiritual ones. I was first introduced to U2 during my sophomore year in High School. The famed KROQ was playing I Will Follow and I was immediately drawn to the bands sound as it did not fit the synth/pop new wave sound the permeated the rest of the music industry. Kind or reminded me of The Clash without all the angst. Something positive and even borderline spiritual. At that time I was always searching for bands with mainstream success that had Christian leanings, members or content to share with my unsaved friends so that I could also introduce them to directly Christian music like the Andy McCarroll and the Resurrection Band. Bands like Simple Minds, The Call and even Ian Cussick were early favorites. I bought the bands debut Boy the week it came out and also a little button with the album cover and the words U2 and Boy on it. Back in those days it was very popular for fans of a band to buy buttons and wear them on their jackets. This was most common amongst fans of ska, punk and new romantic music. Highlights from the album include: I Will Follow, Out of Control, The Electric Co. and Into the Heart. Boy was produced Steve Lillywhite, a very progressive and up and coming producer who had worked with bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees. Lillywhite brought a distinctive sound, a wall of ethereal noise and limited breaks between songs as one folded into another. Even early on it was obvious this band was about Bonos passion and charisma. I was hooked. October was released a year later and I bought it the week it came out as well. At first I did not like it as much, but over the years it has become one of my all time favorites. To call it worshipful would be an understatement. The story goes that while the band was recording the album a briefcase with the lyrics were stolen from their hotel room in Portland, OR. Bono is said to have improvised much of the content and this is why the spiritual and Christian themes deeply rooted in his soul came out in the recording process. Like Boy did with I Will Follow, October starts with the more blatantly spiritual song, Gloria. The song can be taken no other way than its spiritual content. Even the Latin phrases are blatantly Christian in their content. In fact the verses reveal a man so awestruck be an encounter with God he remains unable to speak and asks the Lord for the words. Gloria In te domine Gloria Exultate Gloria Gloria Oh, Lord, loosen my lips.

I try to sing this song I, I try to get in But I cant find the door The door is open Youre standing there, you let me in. Gloria In te domine Gloria Exultate Oh, Lord, if I had anything, anything at all Id give it to you. The innocence was fading and these young men were becoming adults and struggling with this ominous task. They started to realize their frailties and this shows in another more directly Christian song, Rejoice. And what am I to do? Just tell me what am I supposed to say? I cant change the world But I can change the world in me. I rejoice. With War everything seemed to change for the band. Lillywhite remained in the production booth, but this time the production was stripped way back and the sounds were closer to a live rock and roll band. Only Achtung Baby would be as raw sounding as War. Though many find the album to be a protest album of sorts, it is a protest album with a heart and an alternative. Its easy to shout from the rooftops regarding the evils of the world, it is another to offer an answer with the same bold conviction. It is for that reason I believe War deserves its placement here on this list. The live concert tour that supported this album included The Alarm as the opening acts and was an evening dedicated to bold proclamations. But the most bold moments came when Bono would hoist a white flag, march in military formation and declare a peace that only Jesus could provide. The evening would end with a young man Bono pulled from the audience playing three chords taught quickly to him by Bono to the song 40. One by one the band members would leave the stage leaving this impromptu performing leading 15,000 fans in song singing together, How long to sing this song? At one point during Two heart Beat as One Bono stopped the song midway as a small fight had broken out in the front row of the audience. Bono sat down on the edge of the stage, spoke to both young men and made them shake hands and embrace before continuing with the rest of the concert.

At another point in the concert Bono disappeared as the band played New Years Day. The spotlight finally found him on the complete opposite side of the auditorium on the second story walking along the edge railing. He was being held up by the crowd the was sitting in the front row of the second level. At one point he began to lower himself from the second level to the ground floor. He eventually dropped down onto the crowd that gathered below him. They all kept him afloat with their hands above their heads. He pointed to the stage and slowly but surely he was transported hand by hand across the entire bottom floor to the stage on the far side. Where October came across like an existential and abstract artwork like a Monet, War is more direct and in your face and looks and sounds more like a cover of Life Magazine. October was the shadow and War is the reality. As for the album itself it starts off in a very raw fashion with drum and guitar. This more stripped down feel would carry through most of the record. The drumming set a military type tone to a very anti-military type lyric.Sunday Bloody Sunday hearkens back to an event in Northern Ireland in 1972. Several protesters were shot and killed by British authorities including many teenagers. This event escalated the tension between the British and Irish, which had religious implications with the Protestants and Catholics on the differing sides. Bono refers to the events but broadens to the concept of war in general. I cant believe the news today I cant close my eyes and make it go away. How long, how long must we sing this song? How long, how long? Cos tonight We can be as one, tonight. Broken bottles under childrens feet Bodies strewn across the dead-end street. But I wont heed the battle call It puts my back up, puts my back up against the wall. Sunday, bloody Sunday. The phrase how long to sing this song would come in the albums closing song, 40 and serves as the ultimate theme of the project, working as bookends of a sort. Bono addresses the impact on families and communities before offering a glimmer of hope and exclusively tying it into where that only hope resides. The real battle just begun To claim the victory Jesus won On Sunday, bloody Sunday Sunday, bloody Sunday.

At first glance Seconds is straight forward anti-nuclear proliferation protest song. Written at the height of the Cold War and the increase in Chinas military presence, this song could easily be reworked today to include other nations. But once again Bono couches the message with Biblical imagery that is unmistakable. Lightning flashes across the sky East to West, do and die. Like a thief in the night, see the world by candlelight New Years Day was the only song to chart in the US despite many fans, even casual fans, would assume many other songs from the album were hits. But in actuality the only song to chart in the Top 100 was New Years Day with several others charted on the rock chart only. New Years Day remains a staple during their live shows quite possibly due to the universal nature of the songs solidarity theme. If the theme of the album is to be protest then Like a Song is a protest against complacency and selfishness. Bono pleads with his listeners to stop the labeling of one another in hopes of demonizing the so-called enemy. And we love to wear a badge, a uniform And we love to fly a flag But I wont let others live in hell As we divide against each other And we fight amongst ourselves Too set in our ways to try to rearrange Too right to be wrong, in this rebel song Let the bells ring out Again amidst the protest and defiant content Bono realizes the only answer to these problems resides not in governments or treatys but in a heart that is changed. Angry words wont stop the fight Two wrongs wont make it right. A new heart is what I need. Oh, God make it bleed. Is there nothing left? On a musical note I should point out that this song may not contain Mullens finest drum work (I believe it does) but his hardest and loudest without a doubt! The song closes with a great drum and guitar interchange that is powerful and angry. Drowning Man is the only song on the album that would work well on Boy or October. With more of an atmospheric sound to the both the music and the vocals Bono cries out Hold on, hold on tightly. Hold on, and hold on tightly.

Rise up, rise up with wings like eagles. You run, you run. You run and not grow weary. Hold on, and hold on tightly. Hold on, hold on tightly This love, lasts forever. Now this love lasts forever. Again, for anyone with a Biblical background the content is quite clear where the hope for rescue resides. The Refugee possesses a truly different musical and vocal style than anything up to this point. Nearly tribal and intense African-like rhythms, but these support a large melodic chorus. This is often a forgotten U2 number, but I remember it working quite well live on that tour. Two Hearts Beat as One is about as honest and passionate a love song as a punk band can muster. There is no bravado here, but rather an uncomfortable unknowing and anticipation. This is not a cmon baby song but a song written by someone searching for the right words but is at a loss. So, in a sense, it is a protest against the norms of self-driven love and sexual dominance of the music scene. I dont know How to say whats got to be said I dont know if its black or white Theres others see it red I dont get the answers right Ill leave that to you Is this love out of fashion Or is it the time of year? Are these words distraction To the words you wanna hear? Two hearts beat as one. Two hearts beat as one. Two hearts. Its hard to say exactly who takes on the role of speaker in Red Light. The song about a prostitute that refuses help seems odd on the record but seems to work both musically and lyrically as the I take it to be God who is protesting the ways in which someone would need to make a living and reaching and willing to give her real love. This is actually quite radical when one considers the limited ministry effort to reach this person and yet God is calling out to them and willing to show them true love. Musically Red Light is more experimental, like The Refugee and would point to some of the musical expressions to be more thoroughly examined on Achtung Baby and Rattle and Hum.

Surrender continues the war dominated theme where the greatest offensive weapon is to lay down your life for a friend. Victory is preserved by surrendering to something greater and more important than self. Here the war is not fought with gun, tanks and politicians but a battle fought in the soul. This is a spiritual battle that wages that is not seen by our eyes. The good works of the main character Sadie does not satisfy her nor bring her relief. Finally in the songs final words Bono provides the answer. Its in the street gettin under my feet Its in the air, its everywhere I look for you. Its in the things that I do and say And if I wanna live I gotta die to myself someday. The album closes with the worshipful 40 with the lyrics taken directly from Psalm 40. I waited patiently for the Lord. He inclined and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit Out of the miry clay. I will sing, sing a new song How long to sing this song? You set my feet upon a rock And made my footsteps firm. Many will see, many will see and hear. I will sing, sing a new song How long to sing this song? The interesting note behind this song was that bass player Adam Clayton had left the recording studio one evening as the band realized they really did not have a finishing type song for the record. They hurriedly wrote out the lyrics borrowing from Psalm 40 and adding the albums first songs refrain of How long to sing this song? With Adams absence The Edge played both bass and electric guitar on the song. So now in concert as they have nearly always finished their concerts with the song, Adam plays electric guitar and The Edge bass. Though the record may not have been a game changer in the music world, there have been several people that have told me over the years that it was clearly a life-changer. It resonated with young Christians and remains an integral part of the soundtrack and fabric of their lives and testimony.

41. Shaded Pain LSU


September 12, 2011low5point18 comments

SHADED PAIN (1987) LSU (Lifesavers Underground) Mr. Frontline Repdo you have a return authorization form with you? I heard the above phrase more than a handful of times soon after the release of Shaded Pain by owners of Christian bookstores who were offended, outraged and incensed over the content and sound of the debut Lifesavers Underground project. After the safe and strong selling Lifesaver album, Kiss of Life, the dark and scary Shaded pain was too much for an industry still dominated by Carman, Amy Grant and Sandi Patty. Shaded Pain is the polar opposite to Kiss of Life. Where the latter was filled with pop laden, hook filled new wave with hopeful images and even a radio single, the former is dark, postpunk, Gothic and filled with images of loss, death and darkness. A testament to the sheer brilliance and remarkable talent of LSU ring-leader, Michael Knott, both albums are spectacular within their own realms. A closer listen to both shows an artist in transition and one clearly at the top of his game. Knotts artistry is shown also in the albums artwork, which many stores complained was scary and laden with phallic symbols (seriously!). It would not be long, though, before those same stores re-ordered the project as its word of mouth, underground following built sales pressure on the industry. It also wasnt long before it was considered the finest alternative album of the year and is now considered one of the finest in its renege. There is no way to exhaust the superlatives in relation to this project.

Lost, though, in the discussion of the dark and eerie content is Knotts remarkable penchant for memorable hooks and unforgettable melodies. In fact, when one strips away the images and ethereal, dark tones guitar and vocals, the album is really a wonderful collection of sensible pop songs filtered through a darker and more transparent songwriting style. Chris Brigandi (Lifters, Wild Blue Yonder) produced the album for pennies and deserves kudos for breaking barriers and giving Knott the room to breathe here. Brian Doidges guitar is spot and really drives the messages with a fierce and uncontrolled abandon. This is punk rock in the most conservative, defining way; one in which the freedom to express both lyrically and musically the angst and furor of youth with no restrictions. To be thanked for this amazing contribution to the CCM world, Knott was marginalized, criticized and repudiated by bookstores, many in the CCM press and radio shrieked in horror. Fans and critics, though, would herald Knott for many years to follow as the most important figure in his genre, on par with Terry Scott Taylor and Mike Roe. But for all the recognition and praise, this would remain his finest hour. The albums kicks off with the most pop song on the disc. It is the closest thing to Kiss of Life and would serve as a bridge between the two albums. But the content would never have flown on the previous release, as its theme of death and crossing over to the other side would set the mood for the entire project and remain a constant theme throughout. I guess one can address the theme safely on countless Southern Gospel and Negro Spirituals, but the theme is off-limits in white, suburban Christianity. The common spiritual theme of the old man and the sinful nature is addressed in uncommon darker themes in Bye Bye Colour. The grace-filled world in its colorful display is replaced a blue, blue heart. One can feel the coldness in the music that couples the songs lyrical theme. The same theme remains on Die Baby Die where the protagonist must confront the old nature and kill it, in no uncertain themes. The lyrics are rather limited, so here it is all about passion and performance. I cannot say for sure this is Knotts finest vocal expression, but I cannot think of any that are better. He lets loose and screams with an abandon that fits the mood and sense of the song like few others of its contemporaries. Love lost and spiritual reckoning combine thematically in the silky and eerie, Lonely Boy. The guitar work here is fantastic both in its subtle moments and at the points in which it is the primary focus. Winding and whirling, Doidges work is the perfect accompaniment to Knotts pained expressions. Even on the albums most optimistic song, Our Time Has Come, the theme of spiritual awakening amidst a failing Church, the call is to kiss the clever. Knott never made it easy on himself here. The imagery in this song may be the finest on the whole project. Borrowing from Revelations judgment scene, the song embraces Gods judgment as one that purifies and brings life in the harvest time.

The personal favorite from the album is Tether to Tassel. Though I would never want to read too much (or not enough) into the lyrical content here, I recognize themes of graduation and being forced into the real world (prison to Bastille) where one is responsible for their own faith and decisions. A more hook oriented riff, the chorus sticks long after the fade. Im Torn sounds like a refugee from the Idle Lovell project and continues the albums rich theme of loss, death and struggle in this world while yearning for the next. The sheer radical abandon of Plague of Flies was actually how I was first introduced to this project. Mike MacLane of Frontline Records called me into his office and played the original demo for me. Like many, my initial response was what the crap was that? It was not very often that the expression balls to the wall would fit in a review from a CCM artist, but that is exactly what the song is/was. I loved all 87 seconds of it! Plague of Flies bleeds immediately into More to Life, a song that is best described as fearless. A full force attack on false ministries and a Church that is inward focused and loveless. Knott cries out that there must be more than these Godless ministers and ministries bastardizing the name of Christ. The title track closes the album, and ironically, is the mellowest song on the album. Accompanied by a dark and lonely acoustic piano melody, Knotts echoed vocals are poignant and pain-filled. A brilliant close to the darkness that preceded it, the song sounds more like a funeral dirge than altar call. There is no Aesops Fable moral to the story here. Knott does not cop-out with common christianese to placate the CCM world, but rather he continues the questions without resolution. It would be a few years before the album would receive the cult-like status it now holds, but some 25 years later, it still remains of the finest and most important albums ever released by a Christian label.

24. Straight On DeGarmo & Key


October 31, 2011low5point10 comments

STRAIGHT ON DeGarmo and Key When it came to amazing blues informed, progressive rock nothing in Christian music has come close to this amazing release at the time. The album possesses some of Eddie DeGarmo and Dana Keys finest lyrical content. They always possessed a strong musical presence, but some would argue that later albums would lack the lyrical depth of this release. Im not sure I fully agree, but would state that Straight Ons content, creativity and originality possesses both musically and lyrically were never matched. DeGarmo and Key have never shied away from a direct lyrical approach and an unquestioned Gospel message. It is part of what made them such a phenomenal and successful band within the genre. But as we will see in the review of the album these same themes are couched in very creative, passionate and authentic contexts. Friends from childhood, Eddie and Dana formed a friendship that has lasted decades and a musical partnership that has lasted nearly as long. They have been nominated for 7 Grammys and 17 Dove Awards. They created a string of hits in the 1980s that is nearly unparalleled and their success within Christian rock was only rivaled by Petra and WhiteHeart. But it was with Straight On that the band created a timeless work with stellar songs and killer musicianship.

The songs from this album would later be the highlight of their double LP live album, No Turning Back. After becoming Christians in the mid-70s the duo left the band they were in, Globe and began writing music with a decidedly more Christin bent. They received interest from many different labels and ended up signing with Pat Boones Lamb and Lion label, which also was responsible for bring the Swedish hard rock band Jerusalem to the attention of Christians in the U.S. I was introduced to DeGarmo and Key and a Knotts Berry Farm Christian music night. At the time they only had one release and were pushing the upcoming Straight On with a coupon at the concert for the release. I sat with my brother-in-law in the Cloud 9 Ballroom and was simply blown away by what I witnessed. I was a fan of Darrell Mansfield and Resurrection Band at the time, but was more influenced by the musicianship of bands like Kansas, Genesis and Styx. That night I finally saw a band that I believed could compare with those bands. DeGarmo and Keys debut was This Time Thru and hinted at what was to come. Anthem driven rock with great blues tinged guitars similar to Robin Trower with the unmistakable vocals of Dana Key. Keys vocals were similar to a more blues styled Michael McDonald. Other have compared his voice to another CCM and Jesus Music artist, Mylon LeFevere. All of that was simply a precursor for Straight On as the band took production, songwriting and musicianship to a totally different level. Fans of Kansas, Foreigner, Bad Company and even Genesis will find something (actually, quite a bit) to like. The album leads off with Jericho, a straight ahead rocker that shows a glimpse of Keys killer blues guitar, though maybe not enough. Key takes the Old Testament story about Joshua and the Battle of Jericho and related it todays false idols and false sense of hope we place in money and other such similar idols. Your wall street idols wont be here long Form cinders to ashes and they are all gone I begged you to run from your idols to Me But blind by fools gold no you just couldnt see Next is what I believe is the best song DeGarmo and Key ever produced. Sounding every bit of Styx and Kansas, Livin On the Edge of Dyin tells the story of conversion. After starting with a very progressive instrumental opening, the song slows down and, for one of his rare appearances, DeGarmo take the lead vocals. We were all alone on a Saturday When you preached that gospel creed Sittin on the hood of my Chevrolet My heart began to bleed

It cut like a bullet from a smokin revolver Givin me that fatal blow I was runnin like a thief from a law enforcer With nowhere I could go I was lyin on the edge of dying hearin your third degree I was lyin on the edge of dying my soul had no relief After the second chorus the band once again kicks into a great instrumental section lead by Keys fine guitar work. Early reviews in CCM and Campus Life were very complimentary of the song as well with some calling it the groups finest work lyrically. Go Tell Them continues the evangelical theme that DeGarmo and Key would always be noted for. Realizing that the vast majority of their audience were Christians they realized the need to remind the Church of their responsibility to the Great Commission. One of the best progressive rock songs in Christian music follows with Bad Livin. There is a great guitar and keyboard interplay between different sections of the verse and chorus before slowing it down drastically like something Kerry Livgren would arrange. In fact, the style employed here and on other songs would sound not unlike what Kansas would do on Vinyl Confessions and Drastic Measures with the inclusion of the saxophone and other brass instruments. The song then slowly works its way back up with string-like keyboard wall of sound that leads straight into a heavy blues lick. Content wise the song simply addresses the impact of sin and serves as a warning against falling for its lies as well as offering an answer the questions sin creates. Bad livin, but I know Ive been forgiven Cause the price is much too high Well theres got to be a way to And there aint no better day to Tell these people why Need your love Father and we need it right now The keyboard lead instrumental Enchidiron leads directly into my personal favorite on the album, Long Distance Runner. Admittedly it may have more to do with the fact I ran crosscountry in high school when the song came out then any specialness of the song itself. That being said it is great rock song borrowing from the Apostle Paul the concept that the Christian Life is like running a race, a race we need to win. Keys most subdued and pleasant vocals are found on Let Him Help You Today. But at the same time it may possess some of Keys finest guitar work outside of the live album that would follow a few years later. the live version is historic! The song features a great D&K trademark where Key and DeGarmo would go back and forth in dueling instrument fashion.

I Never Knew You follows and again its Genesis and Kansas that come to mind with the progressive keyboard and guitar lick before moving directly into more of a pop vein with saxophone solo. Here Key addresses the issue of those that claim the name of Christ but never really know Him. This reminds the listener most obviously of Matthew 25 where Jesus claims to not know many that named His name. You told everyone you knew That you and I were best of friends But mama, I got news for you There is where the story ends Youre talking fast and loud But I cant hear a thing you say Too late now for acting proud Its time to go our separate ways I never knew you No I never knew you at all The album closes with a classic track that would be a DeGarmo and Key staple for many years to follow. In fact, Key would rework the song on a later solo project. This beautiful acoustic guitar solo tells the story of Mary visiting the empty tomb sung from the point of view of the angel that greeted her there. Mary, please dont be afraid Theres no man there where he did lay Run now, run now, tell your friends Jesus was dead but he lives again Hes risen, raised up with our sins forgiven Risen up from the dead Oooh, oooh, oooh, He did what He said I have often wondered how the song never became an Easter classic along the lines of Don Fransiscos Hes Alive or Easter Song by 2nd Chapter of Acts. This timeless message works well as a finishing touch to the great album. D&K would follow this album up with This Aint Hollywood, a significantly more pop oriented projects and the classic live album, before making the previously discussed paradigm shift to a more keyboard driven synth pop sound. I do not begrudge them making such a change as that was the musical direction of the time and allowed the band to reach a greater audience with the Gospel. It even allowed them a short entre onto MTV with a video called, Six, Six, Six. But for a brief moment there was this amazing time when they were the very best at what they did in a genre that was sorely lacking in the Christian market. And in staying true to what they were very good at for one record they created a masterpiece worthy of being called one of the greatest albums in Christian music history.

25. In Another Land Larry Norman


October 26, 2011low5point9 comments

IN ANOTHER LAND (1976) Larry Norman In Another Land is the best selling Larry Norman album. It was also the first of Normans albums to released by a Christian record company. But it would was not the first, not would it be the last album in Normans career that faced censorship, delays, album cover controversies and bookstore blacklisting. It is also many fans favorite album. I would argue it is clearly Normans most commercial release and is loaded with Norman hits. Actually hits is unfair since CCM radio avoided Norman like the plague during his entire five decade career. So, lets just say it is filled with Norman favorites. Like many Norman album the preceded and followed its release, In Another land contains songs that were also on other projects in similar or completely differing versions. Here, though,

most songs receive a wonderful treatment and very high production standards. Jon Linn plays guitar and comedian Dudley Moore plays piano. Randy Stonehill makes his customary appearance and even John Michael Talbot serves as a guest musician. many argue this is Normans most Christian album. As the third part of a trilogy that included Only Visiting This Planet (present) and So Long Ago the Garden (past), In Another land was Normans attempt to consider the future from a Biblical perspective. As a result Norman believes people understood the albums material to be more Christian because he did not stray from his view of what the Bible says about the future. The album is, in a sense, an eschatological theological tract set to music. Norman, like most musicians and modern evangelical churches at that, was directly influenced by the popular eschatological ideology of Dispensationalism. Hal Lindseys The Late, Great Planet Earth was immensely popular and the Jesus Movement was in full swing with a decidedly rapture ready point of view. This basic belief system would impact the albums content like no other single idea. Even the album cover of Norman standing on a hillside with an artistic rendering of Revelations New Jerusalem would serve as a backdrop for nearly every song on the project. But leave it to Norman to kick off the album with a controversial defense of Christian rock with The Rock That Doesnt Roll.. Though more subtle than Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music, the songs reference to Jesus being a rock that doesnt roll was obvious enough for several Christian bookstores to refuse to carry the album. That added with Normans obviously unGodly long blonde hair splashed across the cover didnt help. One foolish backward masking guru even tried to argue that Normans thumbs were reversed on the album cover, a clear Satanic presence! (uh, serious!) The song itself is pure Norman brilliance. Rollicking and fun, the song would have been a great addition to his follow up, Something New Under the Son. Jon Linns blistering guitar work once again here shows he was Christian musics greatest unsung rock guitar god. The countrified I Love You is more Southern Rock than cowboy music, but the slide guitar and harmonized vocals made the song especially appealing. Despite the emotional, business and relational woes that impacted Norman and Stonehill soon following this release, no two people ever harmonized as well that didnt share the same last name. This shows wonderfully here. It also makes sense given that the song is actually a randy Stonehill song that appears on his Born Twice debut. The lyrics, though, are completely changed except for a handful. U.F.O. is the first of several eschatological themed songs. Jesus is described as a UFO during His second coming (or third or fourth, I can never get it straight). Norman employs a great acoustic guitar backdrop and very progressive vocal production by the days standards. The song does contain one of Normans most famous lines in which he declares If theres life on other planets/Im sure that he must/And has been there once already/And has died to save their souls. The line is pure genius given the descriptive and science fiction allegory the song delivers.

One of Normans trademarks was limited breaks between songs and one song merging into the next. He does that here with a fade into Ive Searched All Around. Linns funky riff is very reminiscent of The Rolling Stones as is Normans Jagger-like vocal. The songs message of a soon coming end to the world continues the theme. Here Norman warns that the world has no answers to the real questions. Righteous Rocker #3 is the third (really second version of the song that first appeared on Only Visiting This Planet. the second was supposed to be on So Long Ago the garden, but was scrapped, removed, never recorded (depends on who is telling the story). This time it is a very produced a capella version. Again we have an immediate segue into Why Dont You Look Into Jesus. This bluesy groove is Normans finest song ever. There may be some who disagree, but I have yet to find a Norman song any better or a Norman fan that dopes not list it among their Top 3. This is, once again, a cover of a previously released version from OVTP. This significantly more sanitized version played much better in Church circles with the removal of gonorrhea and getting laid. he kept the lines about smoking and drinking because blasting those two legal things were quite alright for the church. Another merged segue moves the album into one of Normans greatest vocal performances. I Am a Servant is just plain stunning. Normans falsetto carries the entire song and Moores piano and the wonderful string arrangement that accompanies Normans stirring lyrics make this one a real classic. Youth groups ate it up. I remember hearing the song used regularly in Youth Groups and even Church settings as special music. Literally recorded in less than two minutes live in the studio with Moores wonderful piano performance, The Sun Began to Rain (The Son Began to Reign). According to Norman, this was a one take afterthought. It was used to replace 4 songs that Word records reportedly removed for being too negative. Shot Down remained a Norman staple until his death. I dont recall ever seeing Norman without him performing the song. The great Stone-like groove is pure Norman magic. This would be one of several songs in Normans career where the topic would be how he fended off criticism and remained faithful to his mission despite the attacks. The eschatological theme returns with Six Sixty Six, a treatment of the popular 666 theme of Revelation 13 and the Beast of Revelation who is represented by the number. The song features John Michael Talbot making a cameo on the banjo. Its best if i do not comment on the song itself as to do so would require pounding my head against the nearest wall too many times. But suffice it to say that Norman was not alone in his use of the passage in question. Diamonds is an often overlooked Norman song that could have been a classic and a radio hit if it was longer than a minute-thirty. The beautiful strings and piano make for a compelling and inviting piece. Just much too short. But the classical arrangement that ends the song flows directly into One Way. This song is just so good. If its possible to write a flawless song, this is

quite possibly the finest example. The building arrangement that accompanies Normans finest vocal performance made the song a lasting classic. Norman is credited with inventing the one way sign with the index finger pointing toward the sky. Like much in Norman lore its difficult to separate legend from fact. The story goes that when Norman would receive applause his goal was to deflect the praise and transfer it to god, so he would point to the sky. That single index finger would also be attached to the song One Way and a legend is born. The next song is Song for a Small Circle of Friends. This unique songs starts as a tribute to Stonehill and moves into a prayer of sorts for Normans idols that he would hope to play with in heaven. named are Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney. Bob Dylan among others. Its actually quite a beautiful little song. The song closes with Hymn to the Last generation. The song closes the theme as well as serves as an altar call of sorts. In an obvious nod to the Beatles, this much too short hymn calls for his listeners to come to Jesus or to stand together to reach the world for Jesus. It is at the close of this song that we first here the line for which the album is named. Some will claim the album is much too high while others will argue it deserves top 10 status. I believe the placement fair (obviously) as though it is not Normans finest, it remains one of the most compelling, interesting and listenable of Normans career.

26. A Liturgy, A Legacy and a Ragamuffin Band Rich Mullins


October 26, 2011low5point15 comments

A LITURGY, A LEGACY AND A RAGAMUFFIN BAND (1993) Rich Mullins On September 19, 1997 two men were traveling on I-39 north of Bloomington, IL when their vehicle flipped over. Neither of the two were wearing a seat belt and both were thrown from the vehicle. Shortly after they were thrown out of their vehicle a passing tractor-trailer swerved to avoid the turned over vehicle. One of them was too sore from the impact to move out of the way

A Liturgy, A Legacy and a Ragamuffin Band is a stunning artistic achievement. Combining the impressive forces of Jimmy A, Rick Elias, Beaker, Phil Madeira and Aaron Smith, artist Rich Mullins was able to capture many differing voices musically and bring together an impressive work. Highlights from that album included the deeply personal and stirring, Hold Me Jesus and the fabulous reworking of the Apostles Creed in Creed. For the sole reason that millions of American Evangelical Christian were introduced to the Apostles Creed for probably the very first time it is worth mentioning! But what is most astonishing is that an album filled with brilliant moments and long-standing radio hits is the fact that the album is a concept album. Most comparable albums suffer from

forcing a theme to run the course of the an albums playlist and an artists inability to create quality songs that also stand on their own. Every single song here is a brilliant work unto itself and the fact they weave a simple and intricate theme throughout is simply marvelous. The Ragamuffin band members listed above were not the famous rock stars of CCM or high end studio pros, but rather brilliant artists unto themselves. The fact that Mullins could assemble such a brilliant combination of singers, musicians and songwriters into a real band says much more about the man and the artists that a simple review could ever convey. The album is delivered in two section; a liturgy and a legacy. The former addresses the theological and doctrinal standards of the historic Christian Church and are placed in a traditional format of a liturgy that includes profession, confession, affirmation and worship. These lost standards of authentic Church worship are lost on many in mainline, evangelical Churches, but are immediately noticeable by those with a high Church history. The latter addresses how those standards and statements of faith impact the world around us and how the Christian acts and interacts within their social setting. These are real life applications, especially in the American landscape. With that being said, it is a very Americana album at times while also delving into Celtic, World and even progressive musical expressions. It is this unique and stunning musical landscape that makes this album not just amazing for its time, but for all time. The albums fitting introduction is Here in America. Rather than opening the album with a liturgical introduction, Mullins starts the album with an invitation to join in. After a Rick Elias quip the band settles into a very pretty country/Americana melody in which Mullins invites the saints and children to join in the journey through the Biblical expressions that are to follow. Mullins also expresses the universality of the Church when he proclaims the king of Israel loves us here in America. The liturgical portion of the album begin with the Introit, a common call to worship in high Church or Reformed settings. This is usually a Psalm of prophetic passage and is either spoken or set to music. Here it is Isaiah 52:10 and this call to worship declares the mighty power of the Lord and His protection of His holy ones, those he has set apart. The whole world has sees and will continue to see the arms of the Lord. Musically there is a tough of Kemper Crabb here, with a rock and Celtic setting. After being called to worship and taking their place in the house of the Lord, the people of the Lord will declare His praises. Here it is done with The Color Green. Again, a touch of Celtic music accompanies some amazing strings and drums that build into a brilliant, swirling crescendo as the song builds. The first very recognizable song from the album is Hold Me Jesus, a beautiful ballad of confession. Mullins had a wonderful penchant for personalizing worship and confession. His transparency makes this song of confession relatable. No sin or struggle is too great. The song would become one of the biggest hits, not only from the album, but for Mullins career.

The highlight of the album remains the wonderful doctrinal proclamation Creed. A musical reworking of the third century Apostles Creed, Mullins does not attempt in anyway to modernize the terminology. He simply creates a memorable and longstanding melody around the popular words. Again, during the worship service is there is a time set aside for the church to declare what she believes. the word creed simply means we believe. The Apostles Creed is one of the oldest Church creeds and has lasted nearly two millennia. These 12 doctrinal statements are standards by which orthodoxy has been measured. Mullins here also brilliantly presupposes the truth of the statements realizing they are not the invention of man, but the very truth of God. The liturgical portion of the album closes with Peace. This closing blessing reaffirms Gods love for his people and His persevering work in their lives. rather than a simple dismissed, a blessing is a comfort and affirmation of the eternal truth of gods blessing upon His people. Mullins affirms this here with a great and powerful message in which god blesses no matter where one might be, in a Church or behind prison bars. Mullins also alludes to the Eucharist as well reminding the listener of the finished work of Christ and what was accomplished through his body and blood. The legacy portion beings with78 Eatonwood Green, an instrumental that segues beautifully from the liturgical musical expressions with its Celtic influence to the more Americana sound of the legacy portion that is to follow. I always felt if Mullins would have titled it Christmas in Canterbury Christian radio would have played it as a Christmas instrumental. Hard starts with a James Taylor like acoustic folk pop sound that one would have thought should have made the song a hit. But alas, it was not to be. Lyrically Mullins now begins to express how the truths behind the liturgical side are lived in real life. Mullins cries out that its hard to be like Jesus. Forgiving and loving the unlovely are difficult and a challenge to those who proclaim the name of Christ. This is the perfect song to start this section as someone who just exits a place of worship is thrust into the real world of living what was just proclaimed. The song ends with the wry statement directed at misappropriated faith when one thinks its the things one does that saves them, rather than the work of Christ. Ill Carry On most obviously addresses the concept of the legacy as Mullins declares that he will carry on the songs and stories he learned as a child. But Mullins also recognizes that one also carries the scars and pains of previous generations and events in ones life. One of the longest lasting legacy for most people are Christmas memories. You Gotta Get Up recognizes both the selfish, me-centered aspect of Christmas as well as the real meaning behind the day. No child is immune to running into his parents room telling them its time to get up, its Christmas morning. here again, it is Mullins commonality that makes the potent message woven throughout the song so powerful. A cover of Mark Heards How to Grow Up Big and Strong follows and is a perfect addition. Heard had passed away just a few months before the recording of the album and the song chosen fits perfectly into the legacy portion of the album. Mullins and Heard were very similar in many respects, though Mullins would receive the acceptance and support of the CCM mainstream that

heard never achieved. The song is stirring tribute and a perfection choice. The song remains one of Heards finest moments in an illustrative career, and Mullins did him proud with this version. The legacy section and album close with Land of My Sojourn. The song musically and lyrically points to the lead track as Mullins once again looks at America, especially the rustier parts. Scenes of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and West Virgina serve as backdrops for the purpose statement of the album and of Mullins career. That career was cut much too short. Just about four years after the release of this album Mullins hit the pavement hard and was unable to move out of the way of an oncoming vehicle. One of CCMs finest craftsmen was silenced. Like Keith Green before him, it seemed much too soon. Before his death Mullins announced that his next project would be a ten song, themed collection on the life of Christ. Those rough songs were eventually recorded by some of the biggest names in CCM on a project called The Jesus Project. Those powerfully profound songs were recorded with the support of the ragamuffin band. Again, we were introduced to a liturgy by a man with left one of the truly great legacies in CCM.

28. Doppelganger Daniel Amos


October 21, 2011low5point15 comments

DOPPELGANGER (1983) Daniel Amos I have mentioned in previous reviews that 1983 was just a great year for Christian Music. I cant explain it other than the walls that held back creativity and stagnated musical expressions were crumbling. There was brilliance pouring out of the souls of many young and energetic Christian thinkers and musicians. One of the brightest spots in an already bright year was the second in the 4-part Alarma Chronicles by stalwart CCM heroes Daniel Amos. Doppelganger would prove to be so groundbreaking and enigmatic that it would be several years before many would recognize its brilliance and any chance of Daniel Amos remaining in the mainstream of CCM was all but blown to smithereens. Its predecessor (Alarma) broke barriers and drove the handful of Daniel Amos country music fans away in droves: Doppelganger would eliminate the rest. Doppelganger is the first haunted album in CCM history. Scary, eerie and creepy. And not a single misstep in the entire collection. Superlatives are simply lacking. But the record is scary. Itsodd, quirky, off-key and off-kilter. There is backward masking done on purpose and links between its predecessor and its follow-up. There are tips of the hat TS Elliot and scathing retorts against televangelist. Few sacred cows go unskewered. Every time the listener begins to point the finger at a particular songs subject, he soon discover how quickly the finger is pointing back at him. It is musically and lyrically unsafe. It is brilliant. I had just started working at The Pink Lady bookstore when Alarma was released and I was an instant fan. I had earned a reputation as a music expert and had weaseled my way into getting advance releases from the record companies in exchange for pushing their albums. really, I just wanted to be the first to have it and would push it if it was good, anyway. Getting an advance of Doppelganger was proving to be next to impossible. The band had switched labels and the distribution company at the time (Benson) wasnt sure if or when the album was coming out. But as a total shock to me Terry Taylors home phone number was listed and i was 17 and didnt know any better. Taylor graciously spoke with me and offered to get me a pre-release vinyl copy of the album the next day. I met Taylor at Maranatha Village and he gave me what he thought was a test pressing of the album. What he actually gave me was a white labeled test pressing of a radio special featuring the entire album and interview notes with Taylor! Yes, I still own it! But what awaited me as the needle was placed in the groove was something I never expected.

The initial tie between Alarma and doppelganger comes in the opening track, Hollow Man. Alarmas closing track, Ghost of the Heart is played backwards while the lyrics, based on TS Elliots poem of the same name are recited. This eerie opening, sounding like Twin Peeks meets Psychedelic Furs, set the musical, lyrical and thematic tone for the entire project. Mall All Over the World, the funky bass and drum driven rocker delivers a poignant message on Westernized religious experience. Prophet Taylor appears to be addressing the Seeker driven churches of the 1990s a full decade before they became all the rage. Americanized Christianity and its clamor for commercialized, me-oriented experience over community and Biblical faith are rightly criticized in fine satiric fashion. The use of satire is a prominent fixture in Taylors musical expressions and is a great weapon in the arsenal of a keen mind. Others have attempted it with varied results. But as a lyrical form, satire is a very powerful and biblical expression. Allow me to recommend Douglas Wilsons wonderful treatise on the use of satire in Scripture called The Serrated Edge. (google it) The danger of satire is when the less intellectually involved misunderstand what is being clearly presented. case in point is the following song, Real Girls. Many unfortunately mistook Taylors lament of the view of women in the world and church as an attack on women, when it was clearly just the opposite. I recall a young woman coming up to Taylor at a roller rink (seriously, the gigs great bands have had to endure) and blasting into him for both his view on women and his attack on the Resurrection Band. OKthe Resurrection Band story. While introducing Mall All Over the World, Taylor joked that Rez Band clearly ripped them off with their song Elevator Muzik by borrowing the concept in Taylors lyric that states Elevator up, escalate down. Spending ten minutes defending oneself against attacks on something like that must just drive someone crazy! Televangelist take the brunt of Taylors lyrical dagger in New car. The name-it-and-claim-it crew of TBN and Christian television are shown for their wasteful and wanton ways. Again, Taylor proves himself a prophet here given that the great scandals of Swaggart, Hinn, Bakker and others were many years in the future. The masculine side of the human race receives its own treatment in Big Boys Cry. But here those big boys are those that present the Gospel or are involved in ministry one way of the other. Are those in the pulpit allowed to be real and feel, struggle and fail? Youth With a Machine is an aggressive new wave/punk rocker that oozes pure coolness with one of Taylors best melodies. Modern technology is addressed well before the invention of the cell phone. The theme of how the Gospel must penetrate the soulless life that believes it has no real needs and feels little true emotion. Doppelganger receives its title from The Double. A wonderful metaphor for the Biblical concept of the old man, the song reveals the constant struggle with the two natures we possess,

the physical and spiritual. Ultimately like the Apostle Paul, Taylor understands the struggle remains until Christ rules over all. This same theme is continued with Distance and Direction, a musical departure that would fit nicely on Vox Humana or Taylors solo projects. the beautiful and soft melody reveals that constant human struggle that is shared amongst all who honestly examine their motives and decisions. Memory Lane is a personal favorite for nearly 30 years and is the first of several self-defense songs Taylor has written. Taylor was continually receiving comments and complaints from older fans that did not or would not travel with them on the musical trail the band was blazing. Very punkish the song once again uses some great satirical expressions. But Taylor does not leave the metaphor alone, but rather extends it to those who stay where they are spiritually, reliving past experiences and victories and never moving forward on their own spiritual trail blazing. The satirical highlight may reside in Angels Tuck You In. Modern evangelicalisms claim of the wonderful, painless Christian life is examined in brilliant sardonic fashion. Comparing the christian life to a trip to Disneyland where special little angels are there at your beackon call is scathing while the musical palette is sweet and unassuming. The theme continues but in a much more aggressive and obvious way with Little Crosses. This is the one song Taylor did not have a hand in writing. This Jerry Chamberlain tune is the most guitar focused rocker musically. Modern Christendoms love and fascination for trinkets and Jesus Junk as a replacement for real faith in that which cannot be seen, is given a pretty rough treatment. But for someone who worked in the Christian Bookstore industry, it is more than justified. Autographs For the Sick is just plain odd. Delightfully so. Different voices speaking in various languages over a funky and quirky guitar riff with an English translator. Very Swirling eddies like. Me thinks someone was listening to Tonio K. Though never mentioned by name, it didnt take a genius to presume the subject of I Didnt Build It For Me was Orange County mega-church Pastor and positive thinker Robert Schuller. Constructed in the late 70s and early 80s the massive Crystal Cathedral is either a landmark or eye-sore depending on one perspective. But the question as to the purpose of building such a structure and the proper use funds needed to do so receives firm and harsh treatment. The albums full song closer is Here I Am. Born out of the previously explored theme of how we seldom ever truly connect with those with whom we share a deep and lasting bond in Christ. This real lack of true communion is sad and all too real. Placed against the backdrop of one of Taylors most pleasant melodies, this song of longing and hope is a fitting and natural close. A short reprise of Hollow Man with differing lyrics punctuates the haunting and unforgettable message of the entire project.

Though not necessarily the very best Daniel Amos project recorded it remains my personal favorite and the one I listen to most.

32. Branded Undercover


October 20, 2011low5point5 comments

BRANDED (1986)

Undercover Christian rock changed in one day. Just one single day and it was all different. And it took longer than many expected. Christian rock, new wave and punk of the early 1980s was filled with poppy, youthfully exuberant songs of joy; a spring of effervescent child-like faith populating Christian bookstores shelves and Youth group halls. The Lifters, Lifesavers, The Chosen Ones, Crumbacher and host of other great young bands were expressing, what was for many, a new and young faith with all the passion that they could muster. Things were simple. Black and white. Right and wrong. Right and left. As a young teen myself I had learned that God Rules, and that was all that mattered. There werent any real questions. In fact, real questions were viewed as doubt, and doubt didnt fit into the Churchs comfort zone and theological box. The Christian music scene in Southern California was littered with the bands that everyone who lived anywhere else wanted to see and hear. I could attend a concert or youth outreach three to five times a week and see any of the cool bands and hang out before and after the shows. So, I

did. I was managing the music department (at least the cool stuff) of a bookstore called The Pink Lady. Everyone in Orange County knew the Pink Lady. Despite being owned by a conservative couple from a Presbyterian Church, they were always among the first stores to carry new music and always had an open arm to local bands and their demo tapes. But the store also catered to a very uppity clientele of Church choir directors and was the largest retailer of chorale music in the area. The two clients never meshed well. So, the owners decided to convert a seldom used banquet room in the back of the Sweet Shoppe (ice cream and candy store) into a music section dedicated to Christian rock. A contest to name the section was held and the name Rock Garage was chosen. And it was ALL MINE! My first order of business was to have the single greatest Grand Opening event ever. The main part of the sweet shop had booths that i decided to convert into autograph signing booths for a collection of artist i would invite to the event. Artist that day included The Lifter, Altar Boys, Bloodgood, Barren Cross, Neon Cross, Daniel Amos and Undercover. The real winner was Undercover because their new album was going to release a week or so later and I worked out a deal in which we would be able to sell the album at the event before anyone else would ever receive it. That album was Undercovers Branded. And that day was the day Christian rock changedat least for me. The album arrived the day before the event and I took a copy home to listen. Immediately I noticed the cover sported a tatoo. Seriously, a tatoo? What did I get my store into? Where were the cute kids from Boys and Girls or the bumper sticker graffiti of God Rules? But it was my ears that were hit the hardest. Sin? Questions? An ominous, darker tone? Dammit, wheres Bill Walden!?!?! That was how I was introduced to one of the truly great albums in the history of christian rock and alternative music. It is celebrating 25 years in 2011 and it is just as powerful, poignant and perfect 25 years later. Bill Walden and Joey Ojo Taylor had grown apart over the preceding few years between God Rules and Branded. The in-between release, Boys and Girls Renounce the World would feature Waldens vocals, but he officially left the group before its release. New singer, Sim Wilson joined as the album was being released, but I never saw the Boys and Girls tour for some reason. I had heard that Walden had left, but had no idea what to expect when I first listened to Branded.

At the same time Taylor was going through marital, spiritual and personal struggles. These early birth pangs of doubt and discovery impacted and fueled the musical and lyrical change the band would explore on Branded. More influenced by the Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Lamentations that John 3:16, the album is filled with some of the most challenging content available at that time. It should be noted here that the lyrical shift brought with it a musical change as well. Waldens new wave and pop vocals were replaced with Wilsons bombastic and booming (dare I say operatic?) vocals. More intense and powerful, both in its range and passion, the musical landscape shifted as a result. Guitars became heavier and darker and the boppy keyboards and bass lines become more explosive and dynamic. They are also just flat-out became a better and more cohesive band. They were always heavier and louder live than the first three albums ever revealed. this may have had to do with being placed on a label and working with those better known for Praise String 3 and Psalty the Singing Songbook than rock and roll. This time they were in a real rock and roll studio and working with real rock and roll producers. We can all be thankful that undercover met Elefante. The album starts with Im Just a Man, a pounding and driving introduction to the new Undercover. Heavy without being overly fast. It is punk rock without being punk. The themes of fear, doubt and the realization that the formerly accepted easy answers were no longer enough are introduced here and remain throughout. The drums and keyboard rhythms are just relentless and Wilsons monster voice carry the song forward without a moment of reprieve. Mans frailty set against the expectations of an adoring, and often judgmental, audience reveals an artist longing for understanding. One must wonder if the song was influenced by the troubling question of just how much could Taylor share without fear of rejection and accusing fingers. The Fight for Life is the only song on the album the really feels like it was written in 1986. Big, overly dramatic and all too earnest, the song does reveal the inner struggle to fight for the faith one has against all odds. Here that faith is in another person, a close relationship that is falling and failing. The emotion is real and the dramatic presentation can be forgiven once it is properly placed in history and set against the personal context. Borrowing clearly and liberally from Psalm 139, Where can I Go asks if there is a place one can go to escape the reach of God. Like the Psalmist, the answer is that life does not exist apart from God. Here Taylor expresses the same emotion as the Disciple when asked if he too was going to dessert Jesus. His response: Where can I go? Musically one of the two or three best songs on the album, it also features a more edgy sounding vocal from Wilson. The first three undercover album all experimented with punk rock. Often the results were fun live, but somewhat corny in retrospect. Songs like God Rules, Wait a Minute and One of These Days would feature Taylor on vocals because of how Waldens voice could never communicate that type of material properly or effectively. But the songs still fell flat, most often because of poor studio production. They were great live, but they band or producers could never

duplicate the raw emotion in the studio. This problem was solved with Tears In Your Eyes. Finally, some real, kick ass punk rock. One of the great punk songs in CCM history. Pilate tells the story of the famous Biblical character who ultimately sentenced Jesus to death. But here the internal conflict is brought to the front. The Christian is challenged with their own part in the death of Christ. No one can excuse them from their own personal guilt and taking part in Christs death. There is no passing the buck to the Jews, Pilate or the Roman government. But even more, Pilate realizes that Christ was not guilty and good man, but his own fear and doubt drove him to bow to the wishes of the mob. We are no different. Life is fleeting and it soon passes. A punk rock version of Dust in the Wind of sorts, Build a castle examines mans preoccupation with things that fade, while ignoring those which last. Given the present situation in Taylors personal life, the song takes on a totally new and painful meaning. A ballad of sorts, Cry Myself to Sleep is haunting and utterly unforgettable. Wilsons vocals are more subtle at the right time to carry a message without drowning out the emotion attached to the pain described. After a keyboard prelude, the band delivers one of their finest moments ever, Darkest Hour. Here we find that glimmer of hope, and yet it can only be found in ones darkest point in life. Far from Youll have to excuse us, were in love with Jesus, the song still presents an ultimate answer to these nagging doubts and struggles. Despite the darkness closing in, the voice of Jesus is never fully eliminated. Ultimately it is because Jesus too suffered, sweat blood and faced His own darkest hour. There is nothing he went through that was not common to man, for He was man. He came in the flesh. He can relate. The album closes with two of the greatest songs, not only in the bands illustrious career, but in the history of the genre. If I ever do a Greatest Songs in CCM History countdown, they both would clearly rank high on the list. Come Away With Me is worshipful without being in any way a worship song. Wilsons lower register is strained and emotional in the verses before exploding into the strongest melody on the album in the chorus. The same Jesus revealed in the Darkest Hour is there, calling for His own to come away with Him. It is because of the Darkest Hour that he can make such a powerful call. But it is the album closer that ultimately takes an amazing album and turns it into the true classic that it is. Part anthem and part punk rock. The five-minute epic would often become much longer live starts slow and ominous with just keyboard and vocals for roughly the first minute until it becomes a relentless, powerful and unforgettable rock anthem. Same may wish to argue that Wilson has better vocals on some other Undercover song, but I cant find it. So much emotion packed into 5 minutes. Both joyful and ominous, the warning mixed with jubilation is a rewarding musical exercise.

I will admit that the album was one that I was not an immediate fan of. My youth group bravado was still crying out to renounce the world, and i was not quite fully ready for the challenges that album delivered. But I never gave up on it. It not only eventually won me over, it became a staple for now some 25 years. Christian music changed in one day It just took a long time.

33. Scenic Routes Lost Dogs


October 13, 2011low5point10 comments

SCENIC ROUTES (1992) Lost Dogs Terry Taylor (Daniel Amos, Swirling Eddies), Mike Roe (77s) Derri Daugherty (The Choir) and the late Gene Eugene (Adam) are four of the most important and influential artist in Christian Music history. Their musical legacy dates back decades for all of them and no artist in Christian alternative music would experience the acceptance and success they achieve without these four men and their ground breaking accomplishments. Here is one time when the total is equal to the parts.

The Lost Dogs were formed in 1991 and got together to do a one off release. It was meant to be a fun, one time experience as each had been friends for a very long time and the thought of working together on a single project appeared gratifying. 20 years later they are still making music and touring, though now without the late Gene Eugene Andrusco who passed away in 2000 in his famous studio, The Green Room. Gene has been replaced by fellow The Choir member, Steve Hindalong on drums. Each of the dogs are spectacular musicians in their own right and are easily the top songwriters within their genre. Taylors songwriting credits date back over 30 years alone while the rest of the group has been making music within a band or solo for over 25 years. That is a great deal of quality experience and it shows on every release. But it was the debut release with 17 wonderful tunes that makes the countdown here. The music is a delicious and accessible collection of acoustic rock, folk, country (& western) and blues that never sound forced or out of character. Fans of early Daniel Amos are reminded of some of the more creative offerings from Shotgun Angel and the self titles debut. Each member takes turns on the lead vocals or occasionally there are multiple lead vocals. But in all songs the four harmonize with perfection and deliver a most memorable project. On a sie note the drums were provided by Burleigh Drummond of Ambrosia fame. The album kicks off the the Taylor/Daugherty penned title track. Vocals are handled by Derri and here Taylor shows his incredible wit,wisdom and undeniable poetic expertise. Paint the common things with mystery and renovate our history when we take the scenic routes the cloud enfolded Trinity unpacks the ancient tapestry when we take the scenic routes Mike Roe follows with a reworking of the traditional blues classic, You Gotta Move. The mood and arrangement is a perfect marriage to Roes bluesy and nasally vocal. Built for Glory, Made to Last sounds the most like anything Daniel Amos did in the 1970s. Adding Taylors vocals to the Eagles-tinged melody is the perfect fit to the first verse. But what is even more wonderful is to hear Eugene take the second verse from the point of view of the longing old man that is the subject of the song. Roes Dylanesque tone fits better here than just about anywhere else on the album. Daugherty finishes the fourth verse as a wonderful slide guitar accompanies Taylors lyric. I was built for glory I was made to last God formed these feet to walk golden streets when this hard life is past Say hes doin well on the other side If anybody asks

say I was built for glory I was made to last The four combine to sing the final chorus for a fitting end. Bullet Train follows with a killer blues edge featuring Taylor lamenting the loss of a child who discovered a hand gun in his parents room He bought her a gun for protection She kept it on a closet shelf Their little child found it one fateful day No, he never meant to kill himself Now hes been long gone Too long gone Its a crying shame Now hes riding on the bullet train The Fortunate Sons features Eugene and his wonderful penchant for expressing the aching and longing like no one else. You feel the pain in every strained note. The New Physics is a Mike Roe penned and sung tune that sounds the most like the mellower edge of the 77s. Ethereal, swirling, floating electric guitar accompanies a bright and simple acoustic melody. Roe shows why is may be the most underrated guitar player in Christian alternative music. This is simply a beautiful and captivating tune. The traditional I Am a Pilgrim and the glorious Bob Dylan penned Lord, Protect My Child are perfectly placed back to back. Roes vocals to start the latter is spot and Taylors best and most passionate vocals follow. The reworking of the Dylan tune is both original and respectful of the original. While Breathe Deep will continue to grab the headlines for this album, it is Amber waves Goodbye that will always stick with me. Beautiful and haunting, Taylor can twist a phrase and use it to his advantage like few others can. It is also another song where all four take turns on the lead and that is always a real treat on Dog projects. The quirky humor and style of the Dogs shines through on Bush League that sounds like something left off a Swirling eddies project. Quirky, odd and pure fun. The Dogs get away with this music because they are sold out to it and you never believe they dont completely respect and love it. The long and slow blues riff that drives Old and Lonesome is the perfect match for Roes dirty and drawling vocalsone can almost smell the moonshine.

I Cant Say Goodbyeonce again features Eugenes achingly painful expressions. I really cannot find anyone that mustaches Eugenes ability to not only convey the emotion, but actually feel it. Not only does Why Is the devil read contain great songwriting and wonderful vocals, it also shows what amazing musicians these four are/were. The guitar work is spot on perfect and the arrangement is engrossing and palpable. Smokescreen actually has very limited vocals and is more about creating a mood and presence than conveying a message in word. You feel the song as much as hear it. The Last Temptation of Angus Shane has such a sense of longing that it is almost depressing. The imagery and emotion created for the genre has only been duplicated on Bruce Springsteens Nebraska album. One can feel the sun, dust and beat up gravel road. The song makes you thirsty. The treasure that is the traditional Hard Times Come Again No More shows that these rockers have a better sense of traditional and harmony than many Southern Gospel giants. The arrangement is nothing short of perfect. The album continues back and forth between ballads and rockers with not a real miss among the 17 tunes. But nothing quite touches the majesty of the concluding song that has gone on to be the definitive Lost Dogs song. Breathe Deep is a worship song of sorts, but with verses that break the mold. The song is call to the fact that everyone needs the Gospel no matter where they reside and no matter their condition. The chorus is beyond memorable and stays etched in the mind long after the song ends. In fact, it really is one of those songs that once it is done you want to click replay. Each of the four dogs take a verse in which stereotypes and labels of individuals are quickly displayed in a rhyming/sing song sort of way. At the end of each verse the listener is reminded that each of the previously mentioned labels are actually real people that God loves and that need to Breathe deep the breath of God. Politicians, morticians, Philistines, homophobes Skinheads, Dead heads, tax evaders, street kids Alcoholics, workaholics, wise guys, dim wits Blue collars, white collars, war mongers, peace nicks Breathe deep Breathe deep the Breath of God Breathe deep Breathe deep the Breath of God Gays and lesbians, demagogues and thesbians The disabled, preachers, doctors and teachers

Meat eaters, wife beaters, judges and jurys Long hair, no hair, everybody everywhere! Breathe deep the Breath of God

37. Dig Adam Again


October 7, 2011low5point8 comments

DIG (1992) Adam Again When working for Frontline and Diamante Music in the 1980s and 90s I would occasionally visit friends as they would be recording in the infamous and fabulous Green Room. Many of the greatest releases in Christian fringe music history were recorded there; Jacobs Trouble, Daniel Amos, Common Bond, Lost Dogs and a list too long to continue. The Green Room was the property of Gene Eugene; the founder, leader and vocalist for Adam Again, member of the Lost Dogs, Prickly Disco of Swirling Eddies fame and one of the most genuine and dry witted people I have ever met. The Green Room was pretty much Genes house converted into a recording playground. I remember being there when someone was recording a demo and the drums were set up in a bathroom or something akin to it. But the music that came

out of that converted home changed the face of Christian alternative music and his presence has been clearly felt. The Green Room was also the place he was found on March 20th, 2000 as he had died in his sleep. Later that year at Cornerstone Festival 2000 a warm, funny and brilliant tribute to Gene was held as his closest friends, including Steve Hindalong and Derri Daugherty (the Choir), Mike Roe (77s), Mike Knott, ex-wife Riki Michelle and other performed Adam Again classic. The evening was recorded and released on a double CD. Adam released their first album in 1987 with a cover reminiscent of an early Talking Heads cover (same artist) and a sound that was not too far removed from Talking Heads and REM. The first albums utilized drum machines instead of a live drummer but that was corrected by the time Homeboys was released. This change created a fuller, more aggressive rock sound to accompany the wonderful world, funk, soul and blues rhythms that populated the music of Adam Again. But it was with Dig that Eugene came into his own as a songwriter. He appeared to reach deep into his soul for lyrics more introspective and transparent. Though he was divorced from band mate and vocalist Riki Michelle a year or so later, you could begin to see the tension and pain associated with this trauma unfold through the music and lyrics of Dig. Though the follow-up album, Perfecta, would deal most directly with that drama and pain, it was Dig that most accurately portrayed the unknowing future in stark and muted terms. Musically Dig is big. The production sounds larger than life at times with a wall of guitars, drums and bass exploding through the speakers. Listening to this record with headphones as I have done with most of these reviews has opened up a totally different perspective to what is going on musically. There are layers upon layers of rhythm. There are subtleties and bombastic explosions of passion. There is the heart of an artist placed firmly on his sleeve. We are all the better for it. Eugene is also to be commended for surrounding himself with an amazing cast of musicians. Along with Michelle, band members included Greg Lawless, Paul Valdez, Jon Knox and others. They were an amazing group both in the studio and live, playing with passion, raw emotion and uncanny precision. The album starts off with Deep with a light electric guitar strumming and additional drums and bass as the song builds through the first verse. Then at the chorus the music transitions into a serious rock song with a killer soul-like groove as Eugene sings in double time. So heres a nickel for your time and a dollar for your dime Just another night of laying low I see a shovel in the hand of a wild-eyed man With a mission and a goal below But I dont want to, you dont want to, we dont want to know

And forgotten are the cross, and the naked and the lost, And the lover of the tired and cold The artist here struggles with the facades placed upon many from their fear of not living up to their religious convictions and so are driven to a phony existence and no real contact with one another is made. He yearns to dig deeper into soul and find the real person. Useless and empty, is it? World stupid, loveless limits Immune, deficient fathers Sick sons and dying daughters Deep will I dig, I. . . It Is What It Is (What It Is) follows with a slower verse structure and limited instrumentation during the verses before a musical release in the chorus. The guitar riff is one of blues-induced hard rock, the drum pounding with large fills and progressive changes, while all the while maintaining a soulful vibe throughout. This musical tension is equaled by lyrical tension. Thirty years old, naked and cold A child without a mission There always is a deadline and thats fine Ill follow the tradition The audience is bated Ive got it by the throat That monumental big decision It is what it is what it is The title track starts off slowly with just Eugenes voice accompanied by an electric keyboard with a very lonely, melancholy emotion throughout. Michelles voice is added to the to the second verse before drums, bass and guitar join after the chorus. The song stays relatively the same. This is not a hard rock song by any stretch and yet maintains the Eugene passion, sounding the most like Michael Stipe here than on any other song on Dig. Feel it coming in Feel it going out Water covers sand Blood covers doubt So I begin again Again, the healing bow There was a time when I might have surrendered, but not now Consult the cards to measure mine The earth is hard, but the treasure fine To the sea, Ill crawl on my knees At the sea, Ill wait on my knees

Hopeless, Etc. is quite possibly the darkest and heaviest song on the record, both musically and lyrically. The guitars are whining and grinding. Eugenes vocals are strained and hurting. The lyrics are from that of one who sees things from a perspective of futility, all the while realizing that the writer bares the blame for his own situation, isolation and emotional response. Im useless Im useless Useless without you Its my fault Its my fault I am withered, I am weak And about to find out why Im so into Being useless Useless The instrumental midway through is the perfect marriage of contextual execution. The guitar solo is both raucous and disjointed.While Songwork continues in the same vein musically and lyrically with the theme of self-doubt and the inner struggle of the human condition, it is Worldwide that follows that really shocks the listener. Worldwide is a beautiful, simply, lovingly performed acoustic song. Here the poet turns his attention outward projecting his inner sense of a need for a Savior to a lost world. There are billions of people in the world and we only know a few. As a result, do we truly have the love for the lost world that the Gospel demands? Do we hurt when a child goes to bed starvingagain? Are we removed emotionally and spiritually from the hurting masses? It is much too short of song! But we all love that desert thunder We put some sticker on our bumper Three billion nothings in the world Why should anybody bother? Worldwide Worldwide What about Headman Shabalala? Does anybody care about justice? Three billion people in the world And his spirit weeps for all of us Worldwide Worldwide Worldwide Walk Between the Raindrops keeps a soulful funky groove while Hidden, Hidden is heavier but both continue to explore the doubts. But here again it should be noted that Eugene does not leave the listener with no sense of hope, but rather that effort is involved in seeking.

Without trying to read too much into the inspiration for each song, as many are attributable to the common struggles of man, it appears that River On Fire appears more than the others to be a personal expression of a personal loss of relationship, most notably, the dissolution of his marriage. What can you say, the impossible happens What can you settle for? What can you live without? I remember the night I first darkened your door And I swore that I loved you My heart was pure And you could be happy, and I could be miserable Ill grab a metaphor out of the air The Cuyahoga river on fire The Cuyahoga is said to have sparked the environmental movement as it was so polluted it actually caught on fire some 15 occasions. As we continue to heap the litter of our depravity upon the ones we love it will eventually come to destroy us or be destroyed. The album closes with So Long, a groove driven rocker that describes how we will cut others down in order to make ourselves appear higher. This is a tiring and unproductive way to live. The brass ring that we stepped over others to pursue is mud and clay. I climbed that hill I climbed that hill I wanted to be on the top I wanted to see the top Big deal Im so tired That hill that I climbed Big deal Finally we reach the point of our own selfishness that we can dismiss relationships without the lingering effects that should be attached to them. this revelation is haunting and it is how we are left as a listener. Im so wrong And I dont know the meaning of this song But I know how to say I know how to say So long So long Im so tender The way that I say So long

The pure honesty and authenticity behind every single song just makes Dig an amazing record of note. It is a crime that Adam Again never realized the success they so richly deserved. Timeless music, timeless truths.

38. Chase the Kangaroo The Choir


October 7, 2011low5point10 comments

CHASE THE KANGAROO (1988) The Choir It may have been just as easy to place nearly every album from The Choir in a box, close my eyes and blindly choose which one to rank the highest. No band in Christian music has been able to consistently produce stand out, landmark albums nearly every single time out. It should be noted that the CD release includes the complete 5 song EP called Shades of Gray, but they will not be under consideration here. Following on the heals of the more pop and upbeat Diamonds and Rain, Chase the Kangaroo was the third full length releases and contained songs that were much darker, more reflective, serious and somber and reflected more depth of songwriting, both musically and lyrically, than anything the band had previously produced.

Lyricist and drummer Steve Hindalong experienced a difficult time in life leading up to the release of the project and it is reflected in the lyrics. These included frustration with an industry in which an artist was unable to sustain his livelihood doing his art, the loss of an unborn child and the state of the world around him. This frustration and sadness is matched in Derri Daughertys guitar playing. One interesting musical highlight from this album is the flow and transition between songs. It as if there are no breaks as one song neatly flows into the next creating more of an air of wholeness and completion to the project rather than simply the latest offering from the band. There is a cohesiveness of content and completeness of thought that is represented here. The album starts with Consider, driven by Edge-like guitar styling and a lyrical focus of the struggles within every man to understand the deeper things that appear to be contradictory upon first glance. Consider your laughter Consider My tears Consider My love Consider your fear Consider one small child Consider your cross Consider the hope that withers like a flower Consider My loss Consider the fire Consider the night Consider the truth Consider the light, my love Consider your heart These inner struggles and open and honest questions of assurance and doubt will be on display throughout the entire project, and so, Consider is the perfect way to start the album. Consider flows musically right into Children of Time. Children of Time has some of Hindalongs most imaginative lyrics as it deals with the problem of evil and its origination. Columbus sailed across the sea To trouble our theology What goes up still comes down But where is heaven if the world is round? The Cosmonauts were first in space To look for God and find no trace With a killer cloud or reason for rhyme The devil enlightens the children of time The children of time

The one interesting aspect of this project is despite the darker themes and more introspective content, the songs, like many of the Psalms embrace a sense of the sovereignty of God and sound, at times, almost like a worship tunes. But perhaps, true worship is discovered amidst the struggles and pain of life, when one is left with only a God that is sovereign and holy. This case is most obvious within the framework of the 7 minute Clouds. Masked amidst the swirling guitars and keyboards are some of Daughertys best vocals and Hindalongs finest lyrics.The chorus taken Revelation, Daniel, Isaiah and Ezekiels picture of God enthroned in the heavens is beautifully portrayed here. But clouds are round about You Clouds are round about You Clouds are round about You And shadows veil Your eyes Even hidden within the dark imagery is a nod to the richness of Biblically recognized communion. Not just some formal memorial but one in which the grace of God is extended to His hungry and thirsty Bride. The Ghost is ever bruised Who defends me when I fall The Ghost is ever sure Who holds tight for precious life The blood remains as rich That poor sinners drink like wine The blood remains as warm That paints black skies with fire Sad Face follows with some of the most heart breaking imagery ever set to music in the Christian music world. Written at the loss of his unborn child, Hindalong addresses the struggle, pain and yet hope amidst the pain. Even as I listen again as I write this emotions well up. Its impossible to avoid an emotional reaction to this truthful dichotomy that a sad face is good for the heart. Theres a woman in my kitchen With a rainbow on her cheek Well isnt that a promise? Still I never felt so weak Theres a tiny spirit in a world above Cradled so sweetly in our Fathers love So you dont have to cry No theres something in my eye A sad face is good for the heart Maybe just now I dont understand A sad face is good for the heart of a man A sad face

Hindalongs expressive thoughts are so perfectly matched to Daughertys plaintive and melancholy voice that their combination of talents would not be as explosive or intriguing without the other. And it is in songs like Sad Face where one must express the pain and loss of the other that this so obviously shown. It is also here that Daughertys guitar work can speak the emotions as clearly as his voice. The long time in the studio perfecting this album shows in the experimentation and glorious results noted here. Cain centers on the loss of life and relationships through betrayal. The song juxtaposes the concepts of fear and love and the results each one delivers. Wicked words embrace the darkness For reasons too cruel They hide in the throats of cowards who wait In the shadows with knives for fools Love waved a white flag I washed my robe Love waved a white flag Fear raised a gun What have I done? I washed my robe The Rifleman is possibly the most out-of-place song on the entire project, but somehow it fits. The most acoustic and melodic music is married to spoken word verses performed by guests of Choir including Gene Eugene and Terry Taylor, sometimes singularly while other times mixed together and overlapping.. The Rifleman was a popular western television show starring Chuck Connors as the ever vigilant protagonist who would always be forced to defend himself or his friends. Here the image is used to express mans need for a savior, but of a true savior who comes in peace. But mans initial reaction to a threat is revenge and anger, but here the band calls for peace. Interestingly as the song fades out there is short snippet of Render Love, a song from Diamonds and Rain in which Daugherty pleads for peace in the land. Look Out (For Your Own) reminds us to be on constant look out for those who are need. One must honestly question exactly who the your own are in this song. It would be too easy to simply see this song as a call of personal responsibility for your immediate family as this would be at odds with Jesus own concept as to who is my neighbor. Here I believe is where the band is ultimately looking. Every child is ours to shelter Hunger is a foe to fight But look to your left, Father

Mother, look to your right Dont let your little ones cross the street alone Tomorrows playground is a danger-zone So Far Away is an achingly provocative song of separation. One would imagine the inspiration for this would come from long road trips and late nights in the studio while having to work a day job. Communication is relegated to notes left on kitchen tables and intimacy seems lost in the struggle to stay afloat. But here is also the sad possibility of being eternally separated from those we love. The album closes with the title track, Kangaroo. Here Hindalong appears to be lamenting the situation in which he is forced to dig ditches for the Builder Guy, a job seemingly endless it is as though he is digging a hole to Australia. Chase the Kangaroo did have a #1 single with Consider, but like many truly great albums, it is the whole rather than its individual parts that makes it so timeless and noteworthy. This album more than most as it blends so seamlessly from one song to the next creating a cohesive whole. Anger, doubt, loss and pain is set against hope, truth, justice and the sovereignty of a God in control of even the difficult and painful times. This a true treasure of an album and no one who considers themselves a true fan of the genre could be without it.

23. Chagall Guevara Chagall Guevara


November 3, 2011low5point11 comments

CHAGALL GUEVARA (1991) Chagall Guevara There are many great mysteries in the world of Christian Music. How did a mediocre label like Tunesmith end up with so many great albums? Who thought Stryken was a good idea?

Why does anyone ever buy a Carman album? The most perplexing, though, would be Why did Chagall Guevara not become the biggest band in the world? Perhaps it was because the band was named after a Russian, Jewish artist and an evil, murderous tyrant? Perhaps it was because the band was signed to MCA? Perhaps the music world was embarrassed by the presence on the soundtrack to the awful Pump Up the Volume? Most likely they fell into the Mark heard trap of being to saintly for the sinners, and the Christians didnt want them around. Taylor refused to ever discuss the luyrical content, that was figurative and obscure at times. In fact, I still dont know what half of the songs are really about! Plus, the first single would prove to not be the best the band had to offer. Formed in 1989 and featuring a literal whos who of too cool for you Christian artists, who, all expect Steve Taylor resided on the outlaying fringe of CCM. Though guitarist Lynn Nichols was firmly planted within the world of CCM as a producer, record executive and guitarist with Phil Keaggys Sunday Child, no one outside of the inner circle knew who he was. Two years later the band released their one and only album, the classic and eternal eponymously titled debut. The band signed a record deal with MCA, released the previously discussed song on a movie soundtrack and seemed poised to make it. Even MTV gave the first single a few video spins. Along with Steve Taylor and Lynn Nichols, the band consisted of guitarist Dave Perkins, bassist Wade James and drummer Mike Mead. Mead rocks, by the way. Possibly one of the best drummers that no one knows and probably played on more albums in this Top 500 than just about any other drummer. But alas, the bands history was short lived and the album failed to receive the results it deserved. This is one of those albums that MUST be played at the loudest, most excruciating volume ones eardrums can stand. there is so much going on musically here that to really appreciate it, one must be willing to risk future hearing problems. Simply putits a real rock album. The album is also notable in that it is the highest ranking single release for an artist. every other artist listed above will have a long and glorious track record to be proud of. Chagall Guevara has just this one album, and its placement and the general response to the album shows how just a phenomenal album it is to be roundly considered this fine of an album. The album starts off with the rocking groove of Murder in the Big House. The guitar riff is pure Dave Perkins, for those who recognize his style it is somewhat reminiscent of his solo work and his other band, Passafist, which also featured Lynn Nichols. Taylors vocals here, and throughout the project, are most strained and aggressive than anything during his solo career. The crumbling planet and the lack of civility and real love is expressed in nearly violent terms. The significantly more poppy, Eschers World follows with a melody and hook more single ready than most songs on the album. The backing vocals are more prevalent and the bridge

hook is just killer. Eschers famous artwork shows never ending staircases and mind-bending images, like what was copied on the debut album by Prodigal. Taylor uses the imagery to talk about the difficulty of the human existence in a world that doesnt seem logical and real. The drum and bass driven Play God is the first that really must be played at an ear splitting volume. The additional brass section mixed into the groove drives a song that most resembles Taylors solo work, but with twice the power. Perhaps a criticism of the government, Hollywood or your next door neighbor, the song looks at those who would step on anyone and everyone to accomplish their goals and act as though it is their divine right to do so. Leave it to Chagall Guevara to make a song with a great hook and possible rock hit seven minutes long and destroy any chance for radio success. Monkey Grinder remains a personal favorite and shows the band at their best. A slow, moving blues groove, the song builds, turn and twists. The song would not have sounded out of place from any 77s album from the same time. I have always seen the song as a common folk working for the man lament, but who knows? What i do know is the song rocks from start to finish! A real departure follows with Cant You Feel the Chains? Sounding not unlike Santana in the intro, the song infuses a jazz groove throughout and shows the bands true diversity. Great, great guitar solo work on this song. The first single (only single?), Violent Blue follows in a much more Americana Rock setting. As much as I like the song I never felt it worked well as a single. It was too normal for the bands first single and introduction o the public. It just never stood out in the world of rock at the time. In hindsight it remains one of my favorites, but I just never saw it as a the hit the band needed to have to start their career. The most out of place (and utterly enjoyable) song on the album is Love is a Dead Language. Completely pop driven groove with Taylors most subdued and sultry vocals, the song works on so many levels. I dont know who to credit for the guitar solo but I do know that drummer Mead just makes the song work with his killer driving groove. I have always had an affinity for Take Me Back to Love Canal, but for reasons completely unrelated to the song. My parents are from Niagara Falls and my grandfather worked for the Carborundum Company there. the company, along with others, was charged with polluting the Love Canal waterway and has been blamed for an increase in cancer for those who lived near or swam in the polluted water. My father would swim daily (during the Summer) in Love Canal, but has shown no signs of trouble some 60 plus years later. But as for the song, its a fun rollicking pop punk influened blast. The Wrong George proves that Dave Perkins in the most patient man on the planet. Period! (Just listen). The distinctly more 80s sounding Candy Guru follows with a sweeping groove and silky chorus. I keep trying to rack my brain to find a comparison and everyone i come up with falls just short and isnt quite right. Kudos to the guitar player here again!

I Need Somebody immediately reminds me of Robert Vaughan and the Shadows. So, as a result, I have always loved this song. Should have been a single. The Rub of Love is the only other song that would have fit on Taylors Squint. The song of father/son relationship is brutal and honest. its a difficult song lyrically and the band matches with a heavy and unrelenting groove throughout. The album closes with If It All Comes True, a perfect closer for this or any album. If anything it is much too short. The song is also notable as the one song in which perkins takes lead vocals responsibilities. As a result the song is more Americana rock and sounds like something from The Innocence. the big sounds created here are reminiscent of what he did as a producer for himself, Passafist and previously for Randy Stonehill. The album and the band deserved much, much more than it ever received. Taylor went on to record his final solo project a few years later and the band has been known to regroup for special events and festivals, but nothing is in the works for further recording. Its amazing that album is 20 years old as it sounds current, fresh and modern; much more so than just about anything else in this Top 25.

13. The Turning Leslie Phillips


November 17, 2011low5point9 comments

THE TURNING (1987) Leslie Phillips In 1981 I was shopping at a local Christian bookstore and stumbled upon a compilation of primarily local Christian artist on A&S Records the Maranatha Music rock imprint that a year later would give us John Mehlers amazing Bow and Arrow album. The compilation contained several artists, many associated with Calvary Chapel, but one would stick out the most. It was the female rocker Leslie Phillips who was originally much more Pat Benatar than the Cindy Lauper image her later record company would thrust upon her. Though the Penatar comparison is not accurate in 1981 there was a real lack of comparable artist in the music world as rock music was still primarily dominated by men, Heart and Fleetwood Mac not withstanding. But she seemed to disappear as quickly as she showed up and the next time her familiar voice was heard my me was on Mark Heards seminal, Victims of the Age album a year or so later. She ended up singing background vocals on the song, Heart of Hearts, which would appear on her debut album and serve as her first single.

The most rock of her first three albums, Beyond Saturday Night was a great record that suffered from some questionable mixing. Perhaps it was the record company that forced the keyboards so high in the mix and pulled the guitars so far back as not to offend evangelical ears, but that did not hide what wonderful songs the album included. Highlights from the album are; Bring Me Through, Gina, Im Finding, Hourglass and the previously mentioned cover of Mark Heards Heart of Hearts.

Phillips sophomore project, Dancing With Danger featured much better production but a much less controlled vocal styling that helped Phillips gain recognition as a Christian Cindy Lauper. Though the content of the songs remained strong and authentic, the musical expression never matched the quality of the lyrics.And all this was despite having a literal whos who playing on the record including Dan Huff, Nathan East, John Andrew Schreiner, Jeff Lams, Russ Taff, Matthew Ward and more. It is the only Phillips album that sounds intensely dated today with constant boppy keyboards and pseudo 80s dance numbers. The real standout are the balladsStrength of My Life and By My Spirit. Powder Room Politics can be skipped altogether along with the final DeGarmo and Key influenced, Here He Comes With My Heart.

Black and White in a Grey World was an improvement over the previous as the screeching vocals were toned way down and the musical expressions were much more earthy and acoustic. But what was lacking from the first album was a more questioning sort of aspect. BWGW was so adamant about having the answers that the authenticity seemed to be lacking despite a vastly improved musical package. Here again the ballads were superior with Your Kindness being a classic.

The live concerts that were in support of this album told a radically different story. There was transparency and vulnerability in the concerts performance that he album sorely lacked. In fact, it was with this tour that chinks in the CCM queen began to show. There were comments by Leslie from on stage regarding the dangers on intimacy that takes place during the recording process and how we need to guard our hearts. This was a far cry from Powder Room Politics. But what would happen two years later would literally rock the CCM world. I was managing Maranatha Village at the time and we put together a large in store event featuring several artists that would play later that evening at a Christian Music night at Knotts Berry Farm amusement park. One of those artists was Leslie Phillips and she was there to promote the album, The Turning, which was to come out several weeks later. She arrived at the store with a signed poster for me and with T-Bone Burnett in tow. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor I introduced myself and begged Burnett for an interview. I had heard that he was producing the project but would have never thought he would come to my store. What a genuinely nice and warm gentleman. I still have that poster signed by both of them. My wife and I would actually sit next them at a U2 concert at Anaheim Stadium and he was kind enough to remember meeting previously. One a side note, Nicolas Cage sat in front of us at that same concert. But what changed everything was not the event at our store but rather the infamous concert that took place later that night. Leslie bounced out on stage with a very short mini skirt, twirling around on stage in a manner that many in the audience found offensive. Her band was comprised of Burnett, David Miner and a handful of other musical stalwarts. I was in the front row as her and T-Bones guest. She played primarily only songs from the upcoming album and the audience felt alienated and actually began yelling out songs from her catalog. It was plainly clear that she had no intention in bringing her past with her in the new musical and lyrical direction. I dont recall if Leslie cut her set short but it didnt really matter. I could feel quite a bit of movement behind me and realized that more than a handful had walked out under protest. Many left hurling insults and accusations and insults at her as they left. The show became quite famous and I believe the second set was canceled. I would write a review for Newsound Magazine about the night. The funny thing the concert hall could hold, at the very most, about 500 people and I have met at least 5,000 that claim to have been there and stayed through the entire set. Since I actually could turn around and count how many people remained (which was less than 50) I know someone is lying! What was missed about that night was that in a few weeks one of the greatest albums in Christian music was to be released. CCM listed in amongst its Top 10 of all time. The Turning would turn Christian music on its head. And it would also be the last album that would bear the name Leslie Phillips. She would soon love her record company, marry T-Bone Burnett and set out on a musical venture under the name Sam Phillips. Under that name she would release several amazing records worth discovering. (The Turning would later be released under the Sam moniker).

The album starts with simply Leslie and T-Bone played acoustic guitar performing a cover of TBone Burnetts River of Love. This haunting and beautiful version is, dare I say, superior to Burnetts own version. This song also points to the transparency and authenticity the listener should expect from the rest of the album. I had to run before I knew how to crawl The first step was hard but I have had trouble with them all But now the night grows darker and the day grows dim Cause I know I never will see you again And I almost made you happy Theres a river of love that runs through all time Theres a river of fire that burns with no light The flame is the pain of dreams gone up in smoke From the lies we deny and breathe until we choke Theres a river of love that runs through all time Love Is Not Lost is the first real rock song on the album. As the first upbeat song on the album it also showed the obvious change in vocal direction from previous records. Gone completely is any connection to the high-pitched squeaky voice of any previous release and a more mature, breathy and controlled arrived. There is a level of confidence in this record that was also absent from the previous releases. Here she takes the normal boy meets girl scenario and plays it out with a much more optimistic twist. I meet you And you cut my heart You shake my ideals Until they fall apart Have I lost it all if I hope for something more Than feeling fatalistic pain And if true love never did exist How could we know its name Dont give up now Love is not lost The title track follows with a much more autobiographical feel to it. The struggles of turning and changes in ones life can bring the danger of also having it change you. Phillips cries out in hope that the changes before her will not change who she ultimately is. The turning from light to shadows From burning to indifference The turning of heart to granite Of steel hopes to molten fear

And when it turns on me Dont let it turn on me Again here its Burnetts amazing arrangement and guitar playing that truly shine. Libera Me was the first single and was a huge success despite the controversy. Here Phillips cries out for freedom from those things that have held her down, whether they be internal or external forces. And I dont know all the truth from the lying but I know that I need you cause I am dying from bein held by hell in this cell of blinding fear. Oh, oh, oh, oh. Libera, libere, liberame from this dark dream to a life stream. Libera, libera, liberame from this bruised soul living half whole. Libera, libera, liberame Carry You is sung from Gods point of view as He shows His love for His own by carrying them through their darkest hours. The dark and somber melody fits nicely with the pain struggle explored in the lyrics. There is something captivating about the song that is relentless. Beating Heart would point toward the direction that the listener would find on the first two Sam Phillips releases. The Burnett influence here is painfully obvious. Here the singer does not have all the answers that seemed so obvious on the previous releases. Expectations deals directly with those expectations placed upon her within the music industry by both the label and the fans. This song is vocally the closest to anything Leslie did previously but is held together by a great T-Bone Burnett arrangement. Let me pull down on your high ideals To sweet earth honest and wide Tumble with me in an undoubted craze Dont hold back the tide You might get caught in sweet captivation If you let your mind take this aberration Loosen the pressure you choked me with

I cant breathe I cant breathe You lock me up with your accusations You lock me up with your accusations You lock me up On Down Phillips directly addresses the struggles over faith and the potential spiral she faces. But she discovers that these deeply held convictions that guilted her into acting a saying certain things were not truth.
Cut to the heart I am Like a wound Shattered convictions Were reflecting you Cut to the heart I am Like a wound Shattered convictions Were reflecting you opened up I thought opened up I thought

The albumn closes with two of the finest songs Phillips has ever recorded. they are the perfect close to the album and to her career in Christian music. Nearly prophetic and ultimately timeless. The first, Answers Dont Come Easy follows perfectly the previous song as well as setting up the closer. The struggles admitted to in the previous do not find answers here but rather are explored with the realization that not having the answers is OK. For too often the Christian struggles not with the questions, but with not knowing the answers, leading to continued doubt. But here Phillips does not doubt God, but her own understandings. I can wait Its enough to know you can hear me now Oh I can wait Its enough to feel so near you now And when answers dont come easy I can wait The album finishes with the nearly worshipful God Is Watching You, a song you can still occasionally hear on Christian radio. Sung in a sing and response form with Leslie and T-Bone (and friends) the song is the glimmer of hope in the darkened world of The Turning. It is a beautiful expression of Gods care of those that belong to Him. When your lifes about to start God is watching you When you have a shattered heart God is watching you When youre a slave and when youre freed God is watching you When what you call loves really need God is watching you God is watching you God is watching you

Phillips career has had its ups and downs as had her personal life. But for this one sliver in time in which the public was privy to the inner turmoil and struggles of an artist seeking their true form, Phillips created a masterpiece that stands throughout time and is the brilliant example of what can be accomplished when a gifted artist is free to create.

19. Slow Train Coming Bob Dylan


November 10, 2011low5point9 comments

SLOW TRAIN COMING (1979) Bob Dylan He was the prophet of a generation They watched his every cryptic verb People everywhere in every nation Would bow and worship every word

He gave them songs and made them wild with passion They would leave his name is history Then he sang a little out of fashion And so he gave them one more mystery And then they cried Commercial suicide Watch how you say it Well never play it Commercial Suicide by David Edwards For a couple years in the late 1970s it was rumored that worlds most prophetic singer/songwriter, Bob Dylan had become a Christian. The nations icon of counter-culture had become a Jesus freak! And when word came out that he was working on a new album and that album would reflect his new found faith, his old fans shuddered and the evangelical community was skeptical. After Street Legal, a highly acclaimed album it was hard to believe the next release to come from Dylan would be a Gospel release. But what was delivered was not only a testimonial tour de force, but one of the finest records in Bob Dylans career and easily one of the most important Christian albums of all time. Dylan received a Grammy for his performance on Gotta Serve Somebody, which was also a tremendous hit. There was a vibrancy and energy that had been missing on all but a few releases for Dylan during the 70s. Whether it was his new found faith, the new inspiration, a rock legend producer or the joy of working with Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler, something struck a chord with Dylan in the studio as he created Slow Train Coming. Slow Train Coming was the first of what had become to be known as Dylans Christian Era. There is some debate as to what albums fall under the category though there is little debate that this one, Saved and Shot of Love all fit the definition quite nicely. It should be noted that Shot of Love did contain a combination of sacred and secular songs. Others, like myself, include Infidels on this list as well. I have no problem accepting any Dylan album since then as fitting into his Christian Era as well. In fact, 2006s Modern Times has as much of a Biblical Worldview than nearly any other record in Dylans discography. Our focus here, though, is on the masterpiece that started it all. From the opening bass and drum groove of Gotta Serve Somebody to the final note of the fading piano in When he Returns every note, every line and every theme is a discourse in how to create a real and literal Christian work of art. God may have changed Dylans heart and worldview but he left his nasally, often off-key and limited, but passionate vocals alone. Dylans voice is admittedly an acquired taste and many never acquire a true appreciation for it, but, lets be honest here, when it comes to Dylan it is all about the lyrics.

The first track on the album was also the first single, and surprisingly, Dylans first Grammy for a performance. In fact, during Dylans illustrious career up until that point Dylans only other Grammy was for a live album. Astonishingly enough, Dylan has never won a Grammy for writing a song, and his Grammy here for Gotta Serve Somebody is his only award for an individual song performance. In Gotta Serve Somebody Dylan takes a cue from Jesus own words about whoever is not for me is against me. Dylan clearly proclaims that no matter a persons situation, income, value or lot in life they are members of only two possible sides, the Devils or the Lords. Backed by Knopflers distinguishable guitar work Dylan proclaims. You may be an ambassador to England or France You may like to gamble, you might like to dance You may be the heavyweight champion of the world You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls. But youre gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed Youre gonna have to serve somebody, It may be the devil or it may be the Lord But youre gonna have to serve somebody. The songs strength is in its simplicity and earnestly performed lyrics. Dylan here is not trying to make a great apologetic case on a deeper theological premise, but rather stating that humanity, since Adam and Eve, has been simply divided into two camps. Dylans conversion to Christianity has had many urban legends built around it. A certain infamous Jesus Music pioneer laid claim to helping in the conversion process, while others claim it was a street evangelist that convicted him of his drinking, drugging and sexually promiscuous ways. Many have claimed that he was always interested in the Bible and spiritual things as many of his pre-conversion songs can attest to. Dylan himself laid claim to a Paul-like vision that knocked him to his knees in a hotel room in Arizona. At the same time two band mates, Steven Soles and David Mansfield, had also converted to Christianity and began attending a Vineyard Church they were introduced to by T-Bone Burnett. Mansfield has gone on to record with several fringe Christian artist like Kate Miner, T-Bone Burnett and Leslie/Sam Phillips. Soles also worked with several Christian artists and even released two very well received Christian albums in the early 80s that had a more reggae feel, like that of early Police. Soles did have one very successful song on Christian radio, the title track from his Walk By Love album. That conversion experience show itself in the song Precious Angel more than on any other song. A slight southern country fell accompanies this testimonial song that claims an angel-like character (woman?) delivered the truth of the Gospel to him. Mark Knopflers amazing guitar work shines here in its pure subtlety. The song also serves as a warning to others not to reject this same Gospel. It should be noted here that Dylan was saved during a time of end of the world

frenzy in the evangelical world, and many apocalyptic images are visible throughout, including here. Precious angel, under the sun How was I to know youd be the one To show me I was blinded, to show me I was gone How weak was the foundation I was standing upon ? Now theres spiritual warfare and flesh and blood breaking down Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief and there aint neutral ground The enemy is subtle, how be it we are so deceived When the truths in our hearts and we still dont believe ? Shine you light, shine your light on me Shine you light, shine your light on me Shine you light, shine your light on me Ya know I just couldnt make it by myself Im a little too blind to see. On I Believe In You Dylan addresses the new found persecution and misunderstanding he was receiving as a result of his conversion. This is most plaintive and direct song on the record and is a testament to validity of the experience and the willingness to continue down that road despite the objections and obstacles. It also deals with the simple faith of a new convert that has placed his faith in Jesus Christ. It may contain Dylans best vocals on the record, utterly transparent and emotive. The Christian band Jacobs trouble would later do an amazing cover of the song. They ask me how I feel And if my love is real And how I know Ill make it through And they, they look at me and frown Theyd like to drive me from this town They dont want me around Cause I believe in you. They show me to the door They say dont come back no more Cause I dont be like theyd like me to And I, I walk out on my own A thousand miles from home But I dont feel alone Cause I believe in you. Knopflers lonesome guitar is compelling as it sets the mood of the lonely traveler making his way through this new land. But as the song builds toward the end Dylans vocals shine as he pleads

I believe in you when winter turn to summer I believe in you when white turn to black I believe in you even though I be outnumbered Oh, though the earth may shake me Oh, though my friends forsake me Oh, even that couldnt make me go back. Dont let me change my heart Keep me set apart From all the plans they do pursue And I, I dont mind the pain Dont mind the driving rain I know I will sustain Cause I believe in you. The musical highlight of the project is the title track. This is where Knopflers guitar work shows itself to be of great value generating a passion and musical scope. Here, for the first time on the album, Dylan addresses some issues outside of directly the religious.In fact, outside of the popular imagery of the coming doom (Second Coming) associated with a train, the song could have just as easily fit on any previous Dylan project. All that foreign oil controlling American soil Look around you, its just bound to make you embarrassed Sheiks walking around like kings, wearing fancy jewels and nose rings Deciding Americas future from Amsterdam and to Paris And theres slow, slow train coming up around the bend. Even false teachers and religious hypocrites are worthy victims of Dylans attack. Big-time negotiators, false healers and woman haters Masters of the bluff and masters of the proposition But the enemy I see wears a cloak of decency All non-believers and men stealers talking in the name of religion And theres slow, theres slow train coming up around the bend. This six-minute diatribe goes down as one of my all time favorite Dylan compositions for its ability to communicate truths within a Biblical worldview without resorting to some sort of street preaching. In a true blues fashion of repeating the first line of each verse twice, Gonna Change My Way of Thinking Dylan expresses this paradigm shift in his thinking and worldview. Dylan here seems to be taking his cue from both the Psalms and the book of Proverbs. Gonna change my way of thinking Make myself a different set of rules Gonna change my way of thinking

Make myself a different set of rules Gonna put my good foot forward And stop being influenced by fools. Dylan also continues to address the struggles with an obsession with the opposite sex that was hinted at in Precious Angel but declares that his new found faith has also provided someone who would not lead him astray. You can mislead a man You can take ahold of his heart with your eyes You can mislead a man You can take ahold of his heart with your eyes But theres only one authority And thats the authority on high. I got a God-fearing woman One I can easily afford I got a God-fearing woman One I can easily afford She can do the Georgia crawl She can walk in the spirit of the Lord. The Golden Rule is the subject of Do Right to Me Baby (Do Unto Others)with a little funky groove carrying the song. The addition of the keyboard really drives a cool 70s soul vibe. When You Gonna Wake Up is call to repentance but with a significantly more philosophical and political bias than the rest of the album portrays. The blues groove created by Knopfler and crew is masterful. The song builds to deliver Dylans slashing words. Counterfeited philosophies have polluted all of your thoughts Karl Marx has got ya by the throat, Henry Kissingers got you tied up in knots. When you gonna wake up, when you gonna wake up When you gonna wake up strengthen the things that remain ? You got innocent men in jail, your insane asylums are filled You got unrighteous doctors dealing drugs thatll never cure your ills. When you gonna wake up, when you gonna wake up When you gonna wake up strengthen the things that remain ? Once again the Church is not spared the indictment of hypocritical living as Dylan calls the Church to the same repentance the prophets of old proclaimed toward Gods people. Adulterers in churches and pornography in the schools You got gangsters in power and lawbreakers making rules.

When you gonna wake up, when you gonna wake up When you gonna wake up strengthen the things that remain ? Do you ever wonder just what God requires ? You think Hes just an errand boy to satisfy your wandering desires. When you gonna wake up, when you gonna wake up When you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain ? If there is a slip up on the album its the odd and quirky Man Gave Names to All the Animals. What must have been a great idea on paper sometimes appears as it may have fit better on a Dylan Childrens Gospel album. To be fair I loved the song the first 10 times or so. The song is really about the pay off of the last line. After listing the characteristic of different animals and imagining how Adam may have come up with the names for the animals using an obvious rhyme scheme he concludes with He saw an animal as smooth as glass Slithering his way through the grass Saw him disappear by a tree near a lake .. The album concludes with When He Returns, the most simple and direct song on the record. Accompanied by just a piano, Dylans vocals come front and center and despite its limitation is so authentic and earnest that the song works. It is by far the most poetic and beautiful song on the project and, arguably, the best of the Gospel era songs. One can only imagine the Psalmist penning similar words. The iron hand it aint no match for the iron rod The strongest wall will crumble and fall to a mighty God For all those who have eyes and all those who have ears It is only He who can reduce me to tears Dont you cry and dont you die and dont you burn Like a thief in the night, hell replace wrong with right When he returns. Than like the prophets of old or John the Baptist in the wilderness, Dylan places himself in that same wilderness and cries out for his own sins and the sins of the people. Truth is an arrow and the gate is narrow that is passes through He unreleased His power at an unknown hour that no one knew How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice ? How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness ? Can I cast it aside, all this loyalty and this pride ? Will I ever learn that therell be no peace, that the war wont cease Until He returns ? Then like the preacher proclaiming a warning of a soon coming destruction Dylan closes with

Surrender your crown on this blood-stained ground, take off your mask He sees your deeds, He knows your needs even before you ask How long can you falsify and deny what is real ? How long can you hate yourself for the weakness you conceal ? Of every earthly plan that be known to man, He is unconcerned Hes got plans of his own to set up His throne When He return. Only God knows the heart of man and I have personally avoided the fray of discussing Dylans current commitment other than to state that Biblical images and spiritual content remain up unto the most recent releases. But for our purpose here there was a time in 1979 when a prophet of a generation of one of the greatest songwriters in history took up his pen to create one of the greatest albums of all time.

20. Lead Me On Amy Grant


November 10, 2011low5point12 comments

LEAD ME ON (1988) Amy Grant Several years ago, when CCM Magazine created a list of the Top 100 albums in CCM history, it was this album, Amy Grants Lead Me On that was chosen as the number one album of all time. One of the reasons this blog has garnered the following it has is because this is not a CCM Magazine list. The magazine always had a fond fascination and appreciation for Amy Grant that exceeded her artist achievement. I have always believed that CCM wanted to be recognized outside of its little circle of industry insiders and fans, and hoped to make inroads into the mainstream music and publishing world. In other words, they were a lot like Christian artists of the same era. Since Amy was the great success story in the mainstream music market, CCM Magazine (and others) hitched their wagon to Grants popularity and continued to have her featured on the cover and within its pages. They knew where the bread was buttered and made no bones about it. Those of us who lived on the fringes of CCM were constantly frustrated with the magazines and industrys ignoring of artists like DA, Jon Gibson, David Edwards, Adam Again, Steve Taylor and a host of other outer circle artists who were creating amazing music while being virtually ignored. This created a real resentment in the hearts of many fans (myself included) against the like of Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman and Amy Grant the made it virtually impossible for many to admit when the artist in question actually created great art. And though I never could allow myself to believe Lead me On deserved its obsessive overrecognition, there is no way of denying it is Grants finest moment and one of the best 20 albums ever created by the Christian Music industry. No other album in the Top 20 will be considered as mainstream CCM as this one. So, considering this fact, it quite possibly could be the best pure CCM album of all time. No matter where one falls on the spectrum of Christian music, even the most ardent critic of the genre recognizes this album for what it is; a nearly perfect record capturing a great artist at her very best. Sandwiched between a pasty, plastic pop album (Unguarded) and a brilliant example of a pop masterpiece (Heart in Motion), Lead Me On is brilliant and relentless rock and pop album of a gifted songwriter surrounding herself with brilliant musicians and creating a work of art. Infusing rock, country, folk and even world music influences, the album remains the most challenging and cohesive album of Grants career. A few years ago Grant reassembled the original tour band and took to the road to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this album. It was a phenomenal concert and it was a real joy to see her with the likes of Warren Ham, Chris Rodriguez and Chris Eaton supporting her. It also showed just how well these songs have held up over time. More personal than any previous release and

possible second only to Behind These Eyes in emotional impact, the album struck a chord with many and sold for many years, though never attaining the commercial success one assumes it has. It never reached the Top 50 on Billboards Hot 100. The album starts with the testimonial song, 1974. The song also introduces this newer sound, that was a far cry from the programmed, sequenced leopard skin predecessor. A slight countrified groove with amazing instrumentation that pulls the listener along the road rather than driving him. This song, like the whole album, is more about mood than melody and it simply draws one in. On a side note it should be noted that there are a lot of longer songs for a pop album. many reach over 5 minutes and did not set a tone for radio ready by any stretch. This is most obvious on the 5-minute plus title track. I dont recall if I have ever mentioned drummer Keith Edwards name in any previous reviews,a nd if not, that is a true oversight. he is amazing and is one of the reasons this album sounds so raw and real. This is most noticeable on this song. Where the previous song looks to the past a details Grants simple conversion, Lead Me On is more about the future and the common feeling of not knowing what the future but maintaining a faith in the God who does know. By the way, Tommy Funderburk steals the freakin show on backing vocals. Another 5-minute song follows, with the calypso tinged Shadows. Clearly ripping off Daniel Amos Doppelganger theme (sarcasm), the song deals with the constant struggle the christian has with his/her old man and the constant pull to sin or walk away from the true path. The song reminds the listener of the need to watch out over our actions and thoughts. The one marginal hit (huge hit on CCM radio) was the first single, Saved By Love. In a country-like storytelling vein, the song present a heroine whose life was saved by love, both earthly and heavenly. The song shows the dual nature of the album as it addresses both the spiritual and physical matters of faith, family and love. This put many CCM fans off as it contains and more honest and, at time, darker look at life. The 5-minute string continues with Faithless Heart. The song continues the dig deeper into the less mainstream CCM friendly theme of an honest and transparent lyrical theme. Struggles of doubt and faithlessness are not the themes most associated with Grant before this release. There appeared to be no real personal turmoil in the public eye at the time, so many were shocked by the darker themes. Others, though, warmly received the more honest seeking approach to real life Christian experience. My favorite remains, What About the Love. Both lyrically and musically the song was a major leap for Grant. There is a tinge of anger and frustration with Christendom and its response to the needy and acceptance of sin within its ranks. But the worldly evils are also not immune to Grants attack in the question the title asks. It is a slower and darker melody and never actually gets to a real chorus for quite some time as it builds and builds throughout. Once Grant and band reach the halfway point, the song really drives home the musical punch.

Things mellow out considerable with If These Walls Could Speak. Wonderful acoustic piano performance by Shane Keister accompanies a longing and lonely sounding melody about legacy and family heritage as well as marital relationship in turmoil. I often imagine a video in which Grant returns to the house of her youth at after a funeral. All the memories of lost opportunities to tell a loved one that they are truly loved and the longing desire to make an emotional connection. It remains one of Grants most emotionally evocative songs. I have often wondered if this was a hint regarding the future emotional upheaval she would experience. Really, a brilliant performance. Edwards powerful drumming kicks of the more rambunctious and adventurous All Right. This song is all about mood and emotion. The groove in the chorus is perfect and Grant is more soulful here than just about any other moment caught on tape. Here again we also get to experience Tommy Funderburk is one of the greatest vocalists on the planet as he is featured with a whos who choir behind Grant. Wait for the Healing is the song that sold the album to many of my more skeptical friends. Swirling, whirling and rocking throughout. Clearly borrowing the guitar riff from U2, the song possesses the best chorus of any song the album. It is more musical standout than lyrical one. Two songs in a row are the ones I always forget about the song. The first is Sure Enough. Its not that its a bad song, it just feels so dramatically out of place. the sequenced and annoying synthesized keyboard parts just make is sound much too Unguarded for this album. Perhaps a different arrangement would have helped. Sounds too much like a Gino Vannelli singing a Peter Cetera song. The following song, If You Have to Go Away, which appears to be about then husband Gary Chapman, is just a really forgettable pop song, that sound too much like one created for the sole purposes of garnering radio airplay. In hindsight the songs content is really uncomfortable. But the two previous songs are totally forgiven once Say Once More begins. A brilliant and lovely love song, the song is a real treasure. The wonderful sing-songy melody just wraps and envelopes with no breaks between verse chorus and verse. It also possesses Grants finest vocals on a ballad. Rich and real, the song is just plain hypnotic and Grant sound authentic and emotional. The bridge is utter perfection. I simply cannot express just how well crafted a song it is. Grant would soon record an obvious pop album, but a good one at that, with Heart in Motion that would catapult into the mainstream music world like no other Christian artist before or after, and guarantee several more years of gracing the cover of CCM Magazine, but it would be Lead Me On that would remain her lasting artistic triumph.

21. Jesus Freak DC Talk


November 9, 2011low5point8 comments

JESUS FREAK (1995) DC Talk Sometime in 1990 right at the time of the release of DC Talks second album (first full length), Nu Thang, Toby McKeehan (tobyMac), Michael Tait and Kevin Max Smith (K-Max) performed a concert at Southern Californias Magic Mountain amusement park. As the local sales representative for The Benson Co, the distribution company for their label, Forefront, I was asked to take the band on a tour of local Christian Bookstores the following day. I took them Newport Beach instead! So began a friendship with the three guys that make up DC Talk that lasts until today. In the early days of DC Talk they were tireless self-promoters and would do (and did do) just about anything to help sales and reach the masses. This included being roadies for then mega-group, DeGarmo and Key while performing as the opening act on the tour. They always seemed tired when I met them in the early years. I figured a day off would do them good. Every time I see any of them, which isnt nearly as often as I used to be when I was more involved in the Christian Music industry, that day is always brought up. But it helped me discover the guys behind the platinum albums and their hearts and vision. I will always be grateful to God for that privilege. The first time I met they guys I had just begun working for the Benson Co. on the East coast. They were doing a concert in the Hershey, Penn. area with DeGarmo and Key and decided to go see this new band that the record company was so excited about. I had just left my job in Southern California as manager of Maranatha Village. I was also a contributing writer and reviewer for a magazine out of the Lancaster, Penn called Notebored. When I met them band backstage they had a copy of the newest issue of the magazine which I

hadnt had a chance to see yet. That issue contained a scathing, negative review of their selftitled debut EP. Some ten years later or more Michael Tait would still quotes from that review! I think it took me at least two or more years to fess up that I also wrote for that magazine at the time.

The first night I met the band I also was able to secure a copy of the very limited (for some good reasons) demo cassette that the band originally released called, Christian Rhymes to a Rhythm. That original demo featured a low-budget (demo) version of Heavenbound, the song that would introduce them to thousands of fans on their national debut about a year later. The three guys met at Liberty University in either 1987 and 88. At first it was just Toby and Michael and they began performing the combination of rap/hip hop and Gospel music at Churches and youth events in the area. They were originally knows at DC Talk and the One Way Crew and later shortened it to just DC Talk. Toby took the name DC Talk originally from his hometown but then made it an acronym for Decent Christian Talk. Toby would rap while Michael would sing both separately and then began to merge the sounds. This was actually quite progressive for the time as even in mainstream music at the time the two styles were separated. Kevin joined soon after and his inclusion added a little more of a rock edge with more of a Bryan Duncan and Bono vocal sound.

Upon signing with Forefront records (then the home to DeGarmo and Key) the band released their self-titled debut project. The single Heavenbound became instant hit with young youth group kids around the nation, especially young girls who found the trio cute and fun like their secular counterpart New Kids on the Block. The comparison, whether justified or not, stuck for at least another album until the maturity of the band took hold. Heavenbound may have been a hit but not on radio because of the taboo attached to rap music. At the time there were a handful of Christian rap artists but none had reached mainstream Christian music success do to the fear and bad reputation associated with that style of music. There was also an undeniable racial issue attached to the censorship as well.

The live performances of the band won over many converts in the early days. Its important to remember at the time that rock and rap were seen as opposing musical forces and the merging of the two was suspect. Plus any connection to a boy band like New Kids was also seen as a detriment. So with that in mind the band opened up on tour for one of the biggest rock bands in DeGarmo and Key. That prejudice regarding the style and boy band comparisons was held by me as well. But the very first time I saw them live I was won over. The pure energy and passion put into the performances transcended genres. Both Michael and Toby were great showmen and owned the stage. At that time Kevin spent quite a bit of time behind a keyboard and didnt really start to own and work the stage for a few more years. Incredible live performances would be a trademark for the band for the decade or more that followed. As for the album itself it really does lend itself to the New Kids comparisons with but more a rap feel than a vocal band feel. The album also suffers from a repetitive structure and songs do tend to sound a lot alike, especially Gah Ta Be and Final Days. The heavier guitar on The King sets it apart even though the rapped verse structure is nearly identical to the previous songs. Along with Heavenbound highlights include Spinnin Round and the album closer, the ballad He Loves which showcased Taits smooth and strong voice. On a side note, does anyone else think Toby looks like Anthony Michael Hall on the cover?

Nu Thang was leaps and bounds an improvement over the debut. More instrumentation and sampling, improved arrangements and significantly more diversity in rap structure. There was also an increase in the vocal side of the songwriting arrangements and the vocals handle both verse and chorus responsibilities. But it is still primarily a hip hop/rap album in the vein of early Fresh Prince style. I Luv Rap Music became an instant favorite and shows a more playful side to Tobys rap styling. The Fresh Prince comparison remains here as well. Other highlight include the title track, Walls and Talk It Out which, though a strong song, really falls into the New Kids camp. The album, though, shows vast improvement in all areas and paved the way for the album to come which would shatter the perception of rap and hip hop in Christian Music.

Free at Last is the first platinum selling album and also netted the group their first Grammy Award. As much as the boys showed growth from the first to the second, the leap here was even that much greater. More rock influenced hip hop, vastly improved rapping, memorable song melodies, mature songwriting and top shelf production. Song contain improved structure with better and more creative arrangements. The album would also begin a tradition of additional interludes between songs and merging of one song from another. This would pay off as the band began to receive greater recognition on Christian radio and began to make inroads into the mainstream music market with Grammy recognition and significant mainstream sales. To give an indication just how popular the album was it remained the number one selling album on Billboard Magazines CCM Chart for 34 straight weeks! I received a call from the guys inviting me to be their guest at a taping of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno as they were going to perform the reworked cover of the Doobie Brothers monster hit, Jesus Is Still Alright. This song contained Tobys best and most effective rap to date with an incredible double time rap in the bridge. I went early and met with the guys in the green room before they went on and was always amazed at their seeming lack of nerves. We were joking around up until the taping time when I had to go grab my seat near the front. I had been to several tapings of the show, both with Leno and previously when Johnny Carson was the host, and what I saw that night I had never seen before. It was obvious that most of the crowd was unfamiliar with DC Talk because as JAy mentioned after the monologue who the musical guest was there was no overwhelming applause. It was obvious that Leno was relatively unfamiliar with the group as well. But about midway through the performance I noticed something I had never seen Leno do before. Leno got up from behind the desk and walked all the way to edge of the stage area that separated the main stage and the musical performance stage and peeked around the corner to watch the rest of the performance. Lenos guest that evening joined him and you could tell that they were talking about impressed they were with DC Talks performance with the guest jumping and dancing along with the boys. It was obvious to all that Leno was blown away. When they finished what was a really fantastic performance Leno moved over to them quickly and congratulated on an amazing performance. I was really proud of them and still remember the

guy sitting behind me saying something to his date as we were walking akin to Who the f@&# were those guysthat was f*%&#$% amazing! I smiled. Another advancement made was in the area of videos used to promote the album with one of the strongest being the one for Jesus Is Still Alight. Some fans may have thought the band had literally fallen off the face of the earth. Music years are not unlike dog years and a three-year span between albums seemed like an eternity in the music business. And I dont care who you wereyou didnt see it coming! Many people believed that with the previous success the band experienced with Free at Last and the lucrative deal negotiated with Virgin Records that the band would feel the need to water down its message and embrace a more neutral lyrical stand with primarily love songs, social issues and a compromise of their Decent Christian Talk. What they got instead was an album called Jesus Freak. It is almost impossible to describe what a revelation Jesus Freak was when it was released. Heavy guitars in the grunge vein (while grunge was popular and not 10 years later), brilliant songwriting, near perfect production execution and the single greatest assortment of songs just about any single artist has ever collected into one album. It is nearly a Greatest hits record unto itself. The album sold over two million copies, garnered the band its second Grammy Award, debuted in the Top 20 on the secular sales charts in Billboard magazine and the single Just Between You and Me charted in the Top 30. Videos received regular airplay on MTV and the band moved from co-headlining mid-sized arena and large churches to playing venues like The Rose garden in Portland and The Pond in Anaheim. The influence of truly modern music married to rap and hip hop was not just a creative twist on the genre it was genre destroying. Rockers, rapper, moms and daughters all bought the album. There seemed to be no crowd that did not find the album fascinating and compelling. it walked away with nearly every award imaginable and landed on more Top 10 lists than any Christian album in history. It was both groundbreaking and earth shattering. The album also marked the decidedly obvious move away from the rapped verse, sung chorus structure that had dominated previous releases and Toby even began singing. The change alone made way from a solo career that has not showed any signs of slowing down. The album kicks off (and I mean KICKS) with So Help me God and it is obvious from the first 10 seconds that things are not how they used to be. Toby voice has a distorted, sampled sound and his rapping is edgier and the guitars swirl, whine and grind complete with driving distortion

and heavy guitar solos. Surrounded by a world that wants to drag them into its trap the opening cries out for God to keep them within His will. GOD SO HELP ME THIS IS MY SOULS PLEA IM DESPERATELY DEVOTED I CANT GET ENOUGH OF YOU CAUSE YOU ARE THE ONE I LOVE CAUSE YOU ARE THE ONE I NEED CAUSE YOU ARE THE ONE IM SEEKING CAUSE YOU ARE THE ONE FOR ME That is not the normal fair from a band that is supposed to be using this record to become rock stars. From the very first song the fears of selling out or watering down are more than just dismissed, they are obliterated! The song that should have been the crossover hit follows with Colored People. This song clearly shows the growth and maturity in the songwriting as the topic had been addressed by the band previously, but not with the grace, compassion and lyrical acumen. I also found that a song of racial reconciliation would be sung primarily by Kevin and Toby a stroke of genius. A piece of canvas is only the beginning It takes on character with every loving stroke This thing of beauty is the passion of an artists heart By Gods design, we are a skin kaleidoscope We gotta come together, arent we all human after all? As strong as the opening tracks are there is nothing compare to the title track. Jesus Freak remains one of the finest unions of hip hop and melodic heavy music in history. Its important to remember that this song was recorded and released four to five years before bands like Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park released their debuts! This was not just a creative use of combining musical genres, it was truly revolutionary! Again the content easily assuaged the fears some fans and creates may have about a lack of lyrical integrity. The amazing thing about the album is that even critics that normally are drawn to and supportive of a more vague content were impressed with the content here. It wasnt the same old tried and true CCM pabulum, simplistic and Christianese lyrics that had infected the industry throughout the years, it was fresh, original, creative and clear at the same time. This is one of the true strengths of the album. Kamikaze my death is gain /Ive been marked by my Maker a peculiar display. The high and lofty they see me as weak cause I wont live and die for the power they seek, yeah

What will people think when they hear that Im a Jesus freak what will people do when they find thats its true I dont really care if they label me a Jesus freak there aint disguising the truth. After a quick sample from Brennan Manning another of the several radio hits beings with What If I Stumble. This is one of the best uses of all three vocalist in one song and one of most passionate from Kevin. This is one of the songs that Toby still performs live. A drastically reworked version of Day by Day follows sounding very little like the original from Godspell. Heavier, with a real, almost bluesy feel in the verse structure before the more aggressive and energized chorus. The sultry soulful voice of Kevin Max really shines in the verses here. Between You and Me follows and proved to be biggest cross over hit from the project. Borrowing for Jesus command to not come to worship if there is an issue between brothers, here is another call to reconciliation. Just between you and me Ive got somethin to say I wanna get it straight Before the sun goes down Just between you and me Confession needs to be made Recompense is my way to freedom (now) Just between you and me Ive got something to say The only song I never really went too crazy over was Like It, Love, Need It. It always sounded to much like something Newsboys, Pray for Rain or Audio Adrenaline would have done, and probably done better. The biggest Christian radio hit ended up being a cover of Charlie Peacocks In the Light. Here Toby takes a rare lead vocal spot for the first half of the verse. The song is highlighted by a special guest appearance by Charlie Peacock in the final chorus. This song has remained a radio favorite and another that Toby still performs during his solo tours. The world music groove sounded unlike anything else on Christian music radio at the time. Of course, if Christian radio had enough foresight and played more Charlie Peacock, that wouldnt have been true. An often forgotten masterpiece from the album (and seldom if ever performed live song) follows with What have We Become. Tate really takes this song over in the chorus and the more progressive groove really sets that song apart. It wasnt pop radio friendly and much deeper lyrically, which may have held it back for some fans. I have always believed Tate has one of the truly great voices in CCM, and here he shows it. This amazing album concludes with alternative leaning Minds Eye. Bringing with a spoken work opening closer to Steve Scott than rap. The bridge contains a sample from a Billy Graham

sermon on the work of the Holy Spirit. The band has formed a relationship with Pastor Graham over the years playing at several Billy Graham youth crusades. In my mind I can see Your face Love pours down in a shower of grace Life is a gift that You choose to give And I believe that we eternally live Faith is the evidence of things unseen People tell me that Youre just a dream But they dont know you the way that I do Youre the one I live to pursue DC Talk would record one more album, Supernatural before taking an indefinite hiatus. This album would actually break Jesus Freaks record for the best first week sales in Christian Music history debuting at #4! A strong project on its own, it did not have the total package of impressive content and originality as Jesus Freak. Freak simply made the mold and then went ahead and broke it. The band would call it quits a few years later and the final tour was also a combination of solo sets and hits performed as a group. I attended one of those final shows in Irvine, CA. I count it a privilege that on that evening sitting in front row Toby noticed me sitting there, yelled Hey Dave and then jumped from the stage right on top of me.

12. Love Broke Thru Phil Keaggy


November 17, 2011low5point6 comments

LOVE BROKE THRU (1976) Phil Keaggy Earlier today I received an email from a good friend and pseudo-industry type guy who follows the countdown. His comment regarding the last several additions was classic after classic to the end now! And, now an extent, I full agree. The albums included over the last ten or so would among many a fans top albums of all time. But when it comes to defining a true classic, it may be here, with Love broke Thru that we address our first true classic. Nothing before this album, including Keaggys debut, would match this one for everything that makes a classic a classic. Great and timeless songs, an amazing production (especially given the financial constraints) and the amazing musicianship on display was unmatched. Even Keaggy would never duplicate the impressive guitar work until the Revelator album. And like Revelator, this is the one other Keaggy album that has both great guitar work and phenomenal songs. In fact, if other artists performed the same songs (some did) they would be great songs for that artists (are were). I became familiar with most of the songs here through the amazing live album Keaggy released with 2nd Chapter of Acts discussed previously. As a result the only criticism i could ever have of the album is that the guitar solos did not quite match up to the ones found on the live album, but

that is also a product of the medium, where a live album can expand and allow for artistic expression than a studio project. There is not much that can be said about the artist that hasnt been discussed here and on countless web pages across the universe. he is simply and undeniably brilliant and ultimately humble musician. The next person that says anything negative about Phil Keaggy will be the first. After a good, but not great, debut album, What a day, Keaggy released this tour de force on an unsuspecting CCM market. Bearing the cross of one of the first artists to bridge the gap between Jesus Music and CCM, this album serves as precursor and ground breaker for the future industry. The album starts with the title track, a song written by Randy Stonehill and Keith Green, along with unsung Jesus Music songwriter, Todd Fishkind. Green would place the song on his debut and Stonehill would record his version a decade later. When one listens to the melody and song structure you immediately think, this song sounds like Phil Keaggy singing a Keith Green and randy Stonehill song. It really is a homogenous blend of the three artists. It would also be counted among one of the great songs in CCM history; clearly a Top 50. Here we find Keaggys voclas at their very best and his guitar playing more subdued and subtle, playing mostly a role as support, but with perfect precision and great taste. Take Me Closer is the definitive Keaggy song. Part rock, a little jazz and some funky grooves the song just rolls and is perfect top down drive along the Pacific Coast type rock. it also is where, for the first time since Keaggys Glass harp albums, that his guitar prowess takes center stage. The solo is phenomenal and is set against a great synthesizer solo from Michael Omartian. The band is nearly the same line up used by Barry McGuire on his best two releases except Keaggy uses Leland Sklar on bass. For the uninitiated, Leland Sklar is one of the greatest bass players ever! One thing that immediately separates this album from others at the time is the instrumental break on Take Me Closer. When most other songs would end at the three minute mark, the band pauses for a second then branches out into an amazing instrumental lasting nearly two minutes and featuring Keaggys guitar prowess. This was nearly unheard of in the world of Jesus Music or CCM. Whether it was the belief that the music was only for evangelism sake and that long instrumental breaks were somehow arrogant and prideful, or that there were not enough quality musicians to sustain a prolonged instrumental and keep it compelling I do not know. What I do know is Keaggy could pull it off in spades. For all the electric guitar wizardry Keaggy is known for, it is his acoustic work that truly amazes. As the Ruin Falls starts with a flute and acoustic solo for nearly two minutes before any vocals kick in. Musically it would point toward the amazing The Master and the Musician instrumental album Keaggy would release a short time later. The song looks at original sin and the selfish ways of a mans heart. nearly liturgical sounding, the song sounds like it would fit on a John Michael Talbot album. The lyrics, though, are actually those of a poem written by CS Lewis.

Wild Horse is a personal favorite as it features a very Omartian type feel with a borderline acoustic/progressive sound with a wonderful string arrangement that carries the song. It also is another song that shows off not only Keaggys great speed, but his mastery of a tasteful solo that enhances, rather than overpowers, the song. Another rarity for its time, there are several instrumental breaks rather than limiting to just one as most of his contemporaries had done at the time. Larry Knechtels impressive piano drives this and other songs on the project. Knechtel appeared on several Jesus Music albums including Barry McGuires first two releases, and would later become a renowned keyboardist working with Rick Rubin, Phil Spector as well as a host of others. His impressive piano work can be heard on Simon and Garfunkles classic, Bridge Over Troubled Water. He has been inducted into the rock and roll Hall of Fame. Disappointment is a song for its time. By that I mean it sounds like it came straight off the radio in 1975, completely with happy, sing-song chorus and clap along acoustic guitar riff. I could see how in 1976 this was exactly what the music industry, especially CCM, was looking for. That is, until the bridge, which sounds like it copped straight from a Glass Harp song. The whole world of Christian music changed in 7 minutes. That is how long it takes for Time to finish. The only complaint is that it would be too short tat twice the length. Time is the Free Bird of Christian music and is phenomenal, kicking rock song in or out of CCM. As mentioned previously, it was unheard of for an artist to have an extended instrumental break, but one lasting 4 minutes was border line sacrilege! And it was still WAY TOO SHORT! Fortunately the live version deals with that problem. The instrumental solo give and take of Omartian, Knechtel and Keaggy along with an impressive horn section is utterly brilliant. But its ultimately about Keaggys guitar work which just soars and glides and lifts and dives. it is so powerful, stirring and majestic no review can really justify. It is guitar work like this that started the urban legends that have haunted Keaggy.It is not just the blazing speed, but the Keaggy trademark of finger the sustain control with his pinky while playing the lead, creating the original wah-wah sound he is noted for. If Paul McCartney and Wings were ever to create a worship song, it would sound something like Portrait. What a beautiful song. The accompanying string arrangement could not be any more perfect. For the third time on the project Keaggy penned a musical landscape for a poem, this time one from Beatrice Clelland. The rock returns quickly with Just the Same, another of the rock numbers that are painfully too short! The guitar solo is short but stunning. Again, I would recommend a listen to the live album to experience the extended guitar work. Producer Buck Herring (he of 2nd Chapter of Acts fame sort of) co-wrote the song with Keaggy and is joined by Matthew ward, Annie Herring and Mylon LeFevere on backing vocals. Things I Will Do takes Keaggy back to his classically tinged acoustic styling with great success. It does have Keaggys best vocals on the album and could have or should have been a popular modern worship song if there was anything at that time. Very Scriptural and plaintive.

The album closes with a song written by Keaggy and 2nd Chapter of Acts songwriter Annie Herring. Abraham traces the Biblical story of faith that belongs to the founding father of Jewish and christian faith. The song reminds the listener that the same promises given to Abraham are for all of Gods people. Love Broke Thru was the album that all other rock albums that followed would be compared to. it also was a groundbreaking and important album. Larry Norman operated his brilliance outside of the CCM mainstream and was not limited by a record company executive, where Keaggy broke every barrier within the genre and forced a forward momentum that was never stopped.

11. All Fall Down The 77s


November 17, 2011low5point46 comments

ALL FALL DOWN The Seventy Sevens (The 77s)

When I was 16 years old and got my first job at the wonderful little Christian Bookstore with the funny little name (the Pink Lady) I worked in the music department obviously. Once a month a company would send out demo tapes for our listening center that would contain one minute segments of each song from the albums that were coming out so customers could hear new music and make buying decisions. One such tape was Ping Pong Over the Abyss by the Seventy Sevens (The 77s). Even though each excerpt lasted less than a minute my friends and I would listen to those one minute clips over and over and over. In fact, due to a delay in the release of the album the demo tape actually ended up wearing out before the album hit the stores. Ping Pong was easily the most anticipated release for me in 1983. I was a going to become a huge fan of Exit Records and what they were doing with releases from the 77s, Vector, Steve Scott (who missed this countdown by one slot) and even Thomas Goodlunas and Panacea. One of my favorite memories was the famed first Exit Festival (at Citrus College I believe) on an absolutely hot and muggy day. But I, and the thousands like me, was there for the 77s. They rocked! I also recall going to a Calvary Chapel Saturday Night Concert with The 77s and someone else that I dont remember though I think it was Undercover. What I do remember was seeing Michael Roe in concert for the first time, spitting, flaying, falling and crawling and thinking, theyre never gonna let him back in here again! I was right. I also remember while working for KYMS that none of the other DJs ever wanted to introduce the metal, rock or alternative bands at the local amusement parks so I always got to, and on one particular night the stage I was given to do the introductions for had the Resurrection Band and The 77s. How cool was that? This was around the time of All Fall Down and Mike had this huge main of hair that required cans and cans of aerosol hair spray. While back stage I remember Wendi Kaiser (Resurrection Band) also known for quite a head of hair and Mike borrowing hair spray from each other. But the most memorable part of the evening was during the very extended version of Its Sad in which Roe would wrap himself in a black blanket of sorts and writhe on the ground as the song slowly built to a crescendo. Mike would then begin ripping himself out of his self-made cocoon. Finally after rolling and falling around the stage for the final minutes of the song Roe collapsed in heap at the front of the stage replicating the All fall Down album cover. I cant say as a kid in my late teens at the time that I totally understand the symbolic gesture the spastic performance was imagining, but I can tell you the performance kicked butt! My favorite show was at the Roxy in LA sometime around All Fall Down serving as a showcase for The 77s, Charlie Peacock and Robert Vaughan and the Shadows (who missed this

countdown by 4 slots). At the end of the show, I remember Mark dropping his guitar and pounding it lightly on the ground to increase feedback and bassist Jan Volz and Mike yelling something to him. Mark picked up his guitar and went all Pete Townsend on it just pounding and pounding it until it broke into pieces. I spoke to Jan after the show and asked him why he and Mike told Mark to break his guitar. Jan laughed that he kept yelling at Mark to not break his guitar. I kept yelling dont smash it, dont smash it and Mark thought I was yelling smash it! smash it! The 77s simply rocked! Plain and simple, they were not a punk band, alternative band, new wave band or any other kind of band except ROCK band. No other band could rip through a Talking Heads type world music driven rhythm and follow with a Led Zeppelin cover. I am still amazed when I read reviews that call The 77s an alternative band or that the debut album was a punk record. Even when they formed in the late 70s as the Scratch Band with Roe on guitar and vocals, Volz on bass, Mark Proctor on drums and Mark Tootle on keyboard and guitar, they were a band that rocked. The line-up stayed in tact for several years and with a name change in the early 80s they became The 77s and recorded their debut on Exit Records, a label based out of the Warehouse Church in Sacramento, a Church the band members attended.

The 77s debut, Pink Pong Over the Abyss was also the debut record for Exit Records and would remain the cornerstone of the label during its short but impressive tenure. A wonderful collection of songs written primarily by Michael Roe with a little help from Steve Scott, there is more depth to simple themes than on most albums, let alone a debut project. Different Kind of Light sounds more like Tom Petty than the punk label the band was saddled with early on and looks at the influences of worldly lights in relation to the Biblical one. Roe yearns, Dont want the usual merchandise recycled in a new disguise. Futile worldly love is the topic in How Can You Love. It would be the odd, keyboard and bass driven Its Sad that would become a long time live classic. Borrowing from everywhere from Quickflight to the Talking Heads, the song builds and builds over its 5 minute run. The vain philosophies of the world are confronted by the truth of

the Gospel but with a real touch of Lamentations. Roe laments here, You drink good whiskey, you smoke good pot20 more years what in hell have you got? Much of the album deals with the philosophies of man and their failings. Songs like Renaissance Man and Falling Down a Hole. In the entire career of a band you will seldom find discussions on Buddhism, Islam, Fatalism, Solipsism, Evolution, Spiritualism, Humanism and more, but with the latter song they are all included in under 4 minutes. The title track, though, is the highlight. Relentless, pounding, aggressive and passionate from the first to the last. It is set apart from much of music for combining the ferocity of punk rock with the precision of progressive rock, with changes and progressions. The was a live radio special that I received from Mary Neely of Exit Records that had some live cuts of what was then the Scratch Band performing Ping Pong but referring to it as Reverse Your Lever but that has either been forgotten or denied. The title itself comes from Allen Ginsburgs poem, The Howl. The album was produced by Steve Soles who, along with being connected to T-Bone Burnett and Bob Dylan, also recorded two strong Christian albums, the best being Walk By Love. But forever etched in my musical psyche is 1984s All Fall Down. Produced by Charlie Peacock and the first to have drummer Aaron Smith this album is filled with 10 no-miss songs. There is never a time where I push next on the CD player when this album is one. It is difficult to talk about this album in order when the album and CD are in different orders. The album was originally released with the song Ba Ba Ba Ba kicking off what side one when the band originally wanted that side to be side two. So, when the CD came out several years later the band returned to the original placement of the songs. I recently asked Roe about that decision and he confirmed the story, but now wonders if Words orginal decision was the better one. What is important to note is the the album contains two distinctly different sides, so the order is not as important as keeping the sides of the record in tact. I have often conjectured that the reason behind Words decision was that the Ba Ba Ba Ba side was decidedly more Christian in subject matter where the Caught In a Unguarded Moment side was more secular and controversial, with songs dealing with pre-marital sex in very plain terms and a song about abortion that more than implies the sexual activity as well. This theme was not knew for Roe as songs on several albums including the debut addressed the issue, but none quite as graphically as the songs on All Fall Down. I will stick with the CD version only because it is the bands original concept despite the current misgivings about the change. But when taken as a whole the album does make good sense to start with Caught In an Ungraded Moments. I was shocked when then Program Director of KYMS Greg Fast agreed to add Caught to the station but was more than pleasantly surprised at the response of listeners as the song became a huge hit. All drums and acoustic guitar to start the song tells the story of several young people

who though they had their whole lives ahead of them but were prematurely cut down. No one knows at what hour their lives will be require of them and song proclaims that warning.
I saw a young girl fly Over a rocky mountain brink She had had too much to drink She did not have time to think But it was far more than just her car That flew out of control She had gone over the edge Long before she'd lost her soul And she was Caught in an unguarded moment Her fate was inappropos But she was Caught in an unguarded moment She's been a pleasure to know But she was Caught in an unguarded moment She made a brief cameo But she was Caught in an unguarded moment Something she could not foreknow And she was Caught in an unguarded moment All fall down like dominoes And now she's Caught in an unguarded moment Eternal sorrow and woe

Not the normal lyrical setting for a CCM hit, but the song connected and became a hit. So did the reworked version of Someone New. The same song appears on the debut but with a decidedly different approach. More dance driven drums on this version one must note the influence of Charlie Peacock here. There would also be an extended version available for all this kids down at the dance club. I actually own the 12 inch version. The song itself is a rather simple expression of faith with an evangelist call. Couched perfectly behind Caught the song calls out to those same people before its too late.
Someone new got ahold of me Someone new took control for me And what I blew It won't be held against me Someone new is looking out for me Someone who's got real love for me But what's it to you Are you gonna be the last to know

The controversy would begin with the song that follows, Somethings Holding On. The song tells the story of a self-absorbed boyfriend whose selfish, sexual desires are all that drives his relationship. This shows itself not only in the sexual act but also the physical demands he places on the girl to remain beautiful and visually appealling.
You really whet my appetites Ohhhhh and stimulate my glands As long as what you wear looks right Ummmmm and you keep to the shape I choose

The sexual content is not hidden or alluded to but bluntly stated for the sheer power of shocking reality. But here the song does not wrap up with a nice bow that boy gets saved and starts holding a Bible Study with his girlfriend. Rather the selfish and self-seeking sexual love is proven to be the only point of contact and intimacy and losing it would doom the relationship in a sad or horrible end. Here the confusion between sex and love are made obvious. Set to a 60s, almost Beach Boys type melody, the song expresses the dangers of this kind of living.
Something's holding on Something's holding on Must be love that's holding on

But if you cut off all my fun I'll be telling you 'so long'

The song segues perfectly into the song regarding abortion, Your Pretty Baby. With even more of a 60s or early 70s musical influence nne imagines the woman in the song above is now caught in a moment she never dreamed of and is left with an agonizing decision. The many excuses and rationalizations are personalized in the song.
And when And he's And when Then you Oh, your your time comes 'round nowhere to be found You wait for colour red the ring you get Is not the one you want begin to plot somebody's death Thinking pretty baby won't know Oh, Your pretty babe

Roe shows his keen songwriting skills here using creative phrases to get to the point even finding a way to express the point of intercourse found in the first verse. But like the rest of the album thus far the selfish lifestyles and decisions are made as the impact on another life is not considered.
You couldn't bear this thing To save your life Suppose you start to show So you call the doctor But who's gonna nurse away The little voice inside when it cries You'll curse this day

The first side ends with the ultimate results of the selfish lifestyles of the characters introduced previously but then adds those who spoke of faith and grace but turn their backs on Christ to pursue their own self-filled lives. Here in Another Nail Roe alludes to the Biblical parable of the sower and the seeds.
Waiting for a message I know it will never come Even with the ninety nine I feel the loss of even one No need to keep us in suspense The seed has died through indifference And now we'll reap what you sowed I'll take my tears and let you go Everyday another nail is hammered

The song also contains picking style of guitar work that Roe would employ with great success over the years. The style would be a mainstay and separate Roe as an accomplished musician with varying styles mastered quite well. The other side starts off with Ba Ba Ba Ba, a not so subtle poke at popular cults, most notably Mormonism. The popular apologetic of the Mormons at the door with the burning in the bosom is addressed here.
Ba-ba-ba-ba Ba-ba-ba-ba We believe, we believe Cuz we felt it burning in our hearts Ba-ba-ba-ba Ba-ba-ba-ba And it's true, yes it's true If it gets us all thru the night For the rest of our lives

The song is much more keyboard and pop driven than most songs in The 77s catalog, which again one must assume is as the result of the influence of Charlie Peacock. But here it works both musically and lyrically and Peacock should be commended for adding the more artificial and techno sound to a lyric that is about false religions and ideologies. There are also great Beach Boy type harmony vocals as the song closes with a recording of a man speaking in a backward masking format. The great irony of using backward masking to ridicule televangelist in a song about cults is not lost on this reviewer. His words when deciphered are like lambs led to the slaughter or something to that effect. The two most aggressive songs on the album follow immediately and return The 77s to the style they originated on the debut. Under the Heat tells the story of the bombing of a building housing military personnel. The story relates to the individual in how one responds under the most difficult situations and how those situations reveal the truth as to who we really are.
Reaching through this Curtain of fear My arms are stretched Beyond the limit I take the heat from Streaming tears To bear the cold and Walk out in it Walk out in it My plans for the future Are a frozen picture That has fallen and Shattered and melted Under the heat All our lives changing Under the heat

Mercy, Mercy follows with the same aggressive and frenetic pace as the previous song. The song would remain a live favorite for many years with extended version lasting 10 to 15 minutes in concert. This plaintive call for mercy also serves a warning of those idols that can replace God as our only true God, but all with the understanding that Gods mercy is complete and not contingent on our works.
Love to go far On my guitar Love when she sings Love when she stings But if I bow Down to her notes When death comes 'round That's all she wrote Then I say Lord Have mercy on me I say Lord Have mercy Complete Forgiving Chastening Embracing Unearned Undeserved A total work

I still think U2 ripped off this tune a few years later You Dont Scare Me is a Psalm of sorts that deals with how the man of God does not fear the Devil, his plans or even death. To live is Christ to die is gain. This 6 minute blues song would also show Roes subtle vocal performance and the trademark 77s style of building songs slowly ending in great crescendos. Gods providence and protection are duly noted.
Why should I go the wrong way Down a one way street Against the Heat When in one moment you could Turn my up-to-date to obsolete And your indiscreet And you don't repeat And you're beat beat beat You're so beat Yea though I walk Through the valley Of your shadow so near I will fear no man I will fear no woman I will fear no pain

I will fear no thing Cuz you don't No you don't scare me I'm gonna show you a mystery You'll be swallowed in victory Where's your stinger Where's your sting

The slow build as the song continues is just simply intense. Finally the final two lines are literally screamed in a defiant tone worthy of the content. The song then speeds up, faster and faster until a wild and flourishing finish of drums, bass, guitar and harmonica. The album closes with Make a Difference Tonight a song about the struggles of daily routines and trials that keep us from the important things like God.
Bells buzzers sirens and horns Ringing in my head Bills budgets savings and loans Always in the red Times schedules deadlines and forms I think I'll go crazy Wish I could remember what it was Like to be lazy I'm always running out of time I'm always standing in a line I'm always spending every dime

Again Roe here is actually pointing to the story of the sower and the seeds as he is the seed whose faith was planted amongst the thorns and weeds. All the while he is crying out to someone to make a difference in his life and in turn teach him how to make a difference in the lives of those around us.
Thorns thistles thatches and tares Tangled up in me Gonna take much more than a man To set me free Why won't somebody tell my how to Make a difference tonight

By personalizing the song Roe makes a stronger impact then simply pointing out the fault in others. This would be a common strain found throughout all of The 77s works as each song comes across as more personal and autobiographical. This is probably why many 77s fans feel a deep connection to the band. When Roe personalizes universal struggled he puts himself into the seat of the listener, making his point more applicable. The 77s are the only artist with two albums in the Top 20 (sort of) and have the highest ranking two albums to be included. This is a testament to amazing legacy the band and Roe has left in CCM. Roe appears 8 times on this list, second only to the many incarnation of Terry Scott Taylor. He is that important and impressive. He is that damn good!

Few rock bands have run the gamut of diverse style with such aplomb and success as The 77s. Few bands have also ever been able to merge deep, thoughtful and intense lyrical theme with a musical quality of the depth and stature of The 77s. This was never more true than on All Fall Down.

A classic indeed!

10. Lie Down In the Grass Charlie Peacock


November 18, 2011low5point3 comments

LIE DOWN IN THE GRASS (1984) Charlie Peacock While managing Maranatha Village I would receive a phone call the beginning of each month from Charlie Peacock asking me if I needed anymore of the cassette of West Coast Diaries Vol 1. That helped strike up a friendship. But there was often several years in between conversations. In fact, the most recent conversation I recall was after a Sunday Morning service in Colorado Springs where Charlie had performed the offertory for the Church I was attending. I obviously love a lot of different music and because of connections over the years with many, if not most, of the artist that fill up this countdown, I am not very starstruck. But when it comes to

Charlie PeacockI am a dumb fan! I just love what he does and will find buying albums that he produces even I dont care for the artist. When Exit was just starting out I was invited by label head Mary Neely to a concert in Hollywood with Steve Taylor and this new band Exit was releasing called Vector. What I remembered the most about that evening was this bouncy keyboardist that seemed to play with one hand while dancing with the other in that classic 80s swinging of the arms sort of way. Mary gave me a copy of their album advance that night and I immediately noticed the unique vocals on the songs sung be that keyboardist. They would become my favorites. Not that much later Mary invited me out the LA one more time for a convert of Exit artists as they were looking to sign a mainstream distribution deal. The line-up included Robert Vaughan and the Shadows (a band whose Exit release came in at number 52 on my list), the 77s, a new, revamped Vector and that keyboardist, Charlie Peacock. I left that evening with a blank tape advanced copy of a record called Lie Down in the Grass. WOW! Peacocks road to where he resides today has been long and interesting. He is clearly recognized with CCM circles as a brilliant producer, songwriter, artist and thinker. He received a Masters Degree from Covenant Theological Seminary and performs progressive jazz, worship and pop without missing a beat. He has a loyal audience and fan base for good reason. But it all started quite simply with a very programmed heavy debut that was filled with pop gems, world and African rhythms, poignant and obscure lyrics and a quirky, breathy high pitched voice that some do not find quite as pleasing as I do. Many initially pegged peacock as an alternative artist because of the heavy programming, but in actuality, that came about solely as the result of a low production budget. Anyone who saw him live early on with former Vector bandmates, Vince Ebo and Aaron Smith know just what an authentic musician he was at the time. Though the album in question features a programmed drum, there are plenty of acoustic percussion work, electric and acoustic guitars, real brass instruments and amazing acoustic and electronic keyboards in use. There are two versions of the album released. The Exit/Word version contains two songs that were removed and replaced by two more commercial sounding songs fopr the A&M release. I have decided to add the two songs to the review here. I remember seeing Peacock on tour with other A&M artists in the early 80s and was struck by just how good he was live and how he ended up competing quite well for the audience response of bands like Lets Active. The album starts with the title track. The bopping programmed drums are quickly joined by a great thumping and popping bass. Peacocks breathy voice drives home a poetic message of Gods desire for us to wonder at his majestic creation. Borrowing very loosely from the 23rd Psalm Peacock encourages the listener to lie down in the grass (beside still waters?) to humble ourselves and revel in the glory of God. The trumpet takes center stage here and elsewhere, a

sign of total originality and genius playing. The final chorus with the addition of the tribal backing vocals make the song even more out of step with modern CCM at the time in just the right way. I remember when Greg fast added the song to the playlist on KYMS with a very doubtful eye. But it ended up being a big hit and stayed on the playlist for quite some time. Watching Eternity follows with what should have been a huge CCM radio hit if CCM radio had any foresight at the time. the beautiful melody, psalm like wonderment lyrics and huge hooky chorus made it a great single. the world music groove is completely palatable to even the least adventurous radio listener. In stark contrast to the previous is the more adventurous, and much cooler, Its Gone, Its Over. It is at the point the album really takes off with originality and creative swings. the sax solo is pure perfection and even the programmed drums sound right, especially given the great Michael Roe guitar work the accentuates every line in the verse structure. The dreamy backing vocals are haunting, in a very cool way. A personal favorite, both musically and lyrically, follows with Human Condition. perhaps only Mark Heard understood and articulated the human condition in a better way than Peacock. His strength is in the simple and provocative way he describes the human struggle and the universality of it all. The country twang guitar sound and rhythm is odd, yet strangely perfect. This is also Peacocks most emotive vocal. If Peacock was the earn his alternative label, it would be because of the next two songs. One slower and one more upbeat. the first Lost in translation in more jazz than alternative and is the one song that would have fit perfectly with his previous band, Vector. This slow, grooving jazz number also reminds me of his Hot Night Downtown with its cool and flowing groove. It always reminds me of Joe Jackson without the piano. One, Two, Three (Thats OK) returns the album to the driving rhythm of the title track, but without the world music/African influence. More new wave than just about anything on the album it did make its mark on Christian rock radio shows and the college radio market. Michael Buteras sax work just so good. Peacock shows a more aggressive vocal approach here than anywhere else on the project. I remember friends commenting how they loved the album but didnt like Whole Lot different/Whole Lot the Same. Those friends are crazy! The incredible, building momentum and groove is brilliant. It is also nearly worshipful and the strongest faith statement on the entire project. It is also the one time on the album that Peacocks utter mastery of the piano is hinted at. If anyone has seen Peacock live by himself, you walk away realize you had just witnessed one of the finest musicians out there, especially on the piano. I would have loved even more piano. Til You Caught My Eye may actually contain the albums groove. The bass line is infectious and Peacocks swirling and building vocal structure is spot on. I also really appreciated how the

clearly 60s influenced piano melody combined with straight 80s new wave just works. The halftalking bridge is the albums vocal highlight. Turned On an Attitude works the groove from start to finish. The sax and trumpet brings the song together nicely, but it is Roes unheralded guitar work that steals the show. Again, Peacocks jazz influence makes the song work and lets it breathe in an industry that was rather confining at the time. The original Exit version closes with Who Is Not Afraid? Is this Peacocks finest composition? I cant really say, but i do not know of too many that surpass it. It is haunting and beautiful. The lyrics swirl and consume the listener. It is worshipful and exhorting. As mentioned previously, Peacock often writes like a psalmist, and does so again here, but in a very modern vernacular. I could click repeat over and over on this song! The sax solo deserved two more minutes. The first of the two A&M release cuts is Young at Heart. I should say from the outset that I am more of a fan of the Word version and believe the two additional songs were meant to garner radio play. They are both better produced pop songs, but fit on Peacocks self-titled album that would live in obscurity several years later. Every time I hear Young at heart I hear Rod Stewart singing the chorus. Its a fine pop, radio song, but does not measure up to the interesting and creative music displayed on the Word version. Love Doesnt Get Better is a little more in tune with the rest of the project, but really would have been perfect on Vectors Please Stand By. Again, it is just so much more commercially driven than the rest of the project. And the chorus is way Wham for me! But given that I can own the original, much preferred, Word version the additional songs do not detract from the well deserved placement in the Top 10. I understand it will be one of the choices that many would not include in their Top 20 while others would list in their Top 5.

9. Meltdown Steve Taylor


November 18, 2011low5point23 comments

MELTDOWN (1984) Steve Taylor In 1983 I was a Senior in High School and always on the lookout for some new Christian album to play for unsuspecting friends. I was also working at a local Christian Bookstore and maintained my position as thorn in the flesh to Greg fast, the program director at KYMS, the famous Christian radio station in Orange County, CA. One of my favorite things to do at the radio station was introduce the more rock oriented artist at the regular Christian Music nights at the local amusement parks like Disneyland, Magic Mountain and Knotts Berry Farm. The more popular disc jockeys would lay claim to introducing artists like DeGarmo and Key, Amy Grant and Leon Patillo leaving me to introduce The 77s, Rez Band and Undercover. My first foray into this job was early in 1983 at Knotts Berry Farm. The artist was the then unknown Steve Taylor and Some Band. Steve and Co. had just released their debut EP, I Want to Be a Clone on Sparrow and no one knew who he was. But I did! I asked Steve recently if he remembered that night and he said that he did remember, and for the same reasons I remember it. Steve AND band were placed on the smallest stage in the known universe. It was a stage normally used by a DJ and had about enough room for two turntables and a chair. It was squeezed between a train depot and the long since removed Tijuana Taxi ride. For those unfamiliar with Taylors live performance he possessed a frenetic energy that had to be released or the space-time continuum was in jeopardy! He also remembers, like I do as well, the fact I was a very nervous 17-year-old kid who went through the entire introduction of myself, the radio station, upcoming concerts, Steves record

and label information and welcoming him to the stage in less than 11 seconds. As embarrassing as it was, I was introducing STEVE TAYLOR!!! Over the years I would meet up with Steve at different events like Gospel Music Association week in Nashville complete with Dove Awards, the annual Estes Park Christian music event, concerts and once at a movie theater in Nashville. In every instance he has been the most genuine and kind person. Steve got his start when Cam Floria of the Continental Singers asked Steve to join them for a tour of Poland. This was before any walls ever fell and the Gospel was not a prevalent ideology in the Eastern Block. The things he saw there, though, would be used as inspiration for at least one song on Meltdown. Upon return Steve traveled to Estes Park, CO for the Christian Music Artist Seminar where he performed a handful of songs from a demo tape he had produced. He was signed to a contract immediately by Sparrow Records owner, Bill Hearn. This was seen as quite of stretch for the normally conservative label known more for Steve Green and Steve Chapman than for the music of Steve Taylor.

Clone was quickly recorded and released in early 1983 to rave reviews and more than a few raised eyebrows. Known for its frenetic pace and songs lasting upwards of two minutes, Clone had a distinctly Oingo Boing or Devo feel to the music and even had a rap (term used loosely) song. But the eyebrow raising was reserved for the intensely sarcastic and caustic lyrical content. No sacred cow was safe and in later album he would even name names. Many in the evangelical world never have been able to understand the use of satire and sarcasm within Biblical standards. The Bible is not foreign to this type of literature and language, and is a very effective weapon in the oratory and written arsenal God has provided. He has made foolish the wisdom of this world and does using sarcasm and satire to do so. Since I was working at a Christian Bookstore when Clone was released I was able to buy it the day it came out. Those six songs were played over and over so many times at home that the first copy I had was eventually rubbed smooth. From critical looks at those who cannot find a Church (Steeplechase) and churches that demanded perfect compliance (I Want to Be a Clone) to relativism (Bap Rap) and humanism (Whatcha Gonna Do When Your Numbers Up), Clone took no prisoners.

I remember at the time a Youth Pastor of a church I was attending was just blasting Taylor for his content. He was upset that Taylors voice sounded so sarcastic that people might mistake him for someone who thinks we shouldnt all be exactly alike! I guess Clone was written for him. But it is Whatever Happened to Sin that steals the show. After generations of the Church no longer teaching about mans culpability in relation to sin, Taylor was forced to ask the question. Whether it was political figures using the name of Christ to get elected, a Christian advising a young woman to seek an abortion or mainstream, liberal Churchs softening stand on moral imperatives, no one was beyond striking distance. As caustic as Clone may have appeared to be, nothing would compare to the album that would follow. Meltdown hit the market in 1984 and I really dont think the industry was ready for it. Oddly enough the album did contain Taylors first radio hit in Hero. It was not originally released as a single, but KYMS and a few other stations started playing it and it caught on. The rock single Meltdown did make some waves on MTV and featured Lisa Welchel who was best known as Blair from the popular television show, The Facts of Life. The album maintained the Oingo Boingo pace but also included a more mature, David Bowie type influence. ten finely crafted song that would remain staples for Taylor for many years to come, Meltdown remains the favorite among most fans even though later albums may have shown more artistic growth and merit. There was this absurd combination of anger, sarcasm and innocence that flowed from the songs. Taylors victims were thinly veiled, and quite frankly clearly defined, as they made for easy targets. Whether its Bob Jones Universitys former policy on inter-racial relationships or Jimmy Swaggarts attacks on Christian Rock, it did not take a genius to know who the attacks were leveled against. Taylors later albums would also address similar themes with Bill Gothard and Robert Tilton also receiving the pointy end of the pen. But, as we will see, Meltdown also dealt with general issues of the sins of the world and the sins of the church. The title track leads the album off with a satirical look at the rich and famous and how their money, popularity and importance will not keep them safe on judgment day. The video did make the rounds on both Christian and mainstream video outlets and was quite good considering the year and the medias relative youth. Using the famed Madame Tussauds Wax Museum as a backdrop for the song in which a rogue janitor turned up the heat on the famous statues. Elvis and the Beatles have seen a better day Better off to burn out than to melt away Dylan may be fillin the puddle they designed Is it gonna take a miracle to make up his mind?

Athletes on the floor Meltdown Theyre running out the door Bad boy McEnroe couldnt keep his cool Now hes with the rest of em, wading in the pool Howard HughesBillionaire says the written guide Pity that his assets have all been liquefied The exclamation point is given at the songs conclusion as he notes the importance of centering one life around that which will last. Celebrity status only got in the way Had my hands in my pockets on the Judgment Day You cant take it with youtheres fire in the hole Had the world by the tail but I lost my soul There is a great throw away line at the end of the song as the chorus is repeating where the inspector from Scotland yard complains A lot of bees gave there all for this The not so subtle attack on the Bob Jones University stand on inter-racial relationships, We Dont Need No Colour Code is done in a tribal sing and response format. This was easily the most controversial song on the record as the use of names (initials in this case) and the power the university possessed within Christian circles. The university finally abolished the practice in 2000. Down Carolina way Lived a man name o Big B.J. B.J. went and got a school Founded on Caucasian rule Bumper sticker on his Ford Says Honkies If You Love The Lord One of the most controversial lines on the whole album is near the end of the song where he states white supremest eat their young. I attended three different concert in which I witnessed Steve having to explain that line. In fact, at an in-store album signing party at Maranatha Village I hosted someone challenged him on that song and particularly on that line. What sounds like a great idea on paper does not always work in the studio. I am sure that many feel that way about the straying keyboard that accompanies the song, Am I In Sync? I actually like it and appreciate the supportive message it lends to the song. When famed movie director Woody Allen was asked if he desired to achieve immortality through his movie making he responded by stating he would rather achieve immortality by not dying. This line was the impetus for the song and its message of those who try to achieve greatness and immortality through their actions while avoiding the only who can

provide that immortality. Here Taylor tells the story of two distinctly different people who attempt to find immortality whether through becoming famous (movie star) or by leaving a legacy (science). Long before Rush Limbaugh and Shawn Hannity found the mainstream media an easy target for attack, Taylor was already all over it. Actually he was way ahead of the curb for noting the liberal bias inherent within modern journalism. He even noted that it may not be within the editorial content, but also as a result of what the press decides to cover or not cover. In concert he would tell the story of an event where to leading evangelicals came out in support of a womans right to choose. the press was all over it with every single paper present at the press conference and proclaimed it as a victory for human and womans rights. But at the same time in the same city hundreds upon hundreds of Christians met to voice their support of life and not one single journalist was present. Taylor discusses the eventual slippery slope results of a lack of oversight in Meat the Press. When the godless chair the judgment seat We can thank the godless media elite They can silence those who fall from their grace With a note that says we havent the space Well lookee therethe dogs asleep Whenever we march or say a peep A Christian cant get equal time Unless hes a loony committing a crime Listen up if youve got ears Im tired of condescending sneers Ive got a dog who smells a fight And he still believes in wrong and right Over My Dead Body is one of the most challenging and disturbing songs in Taylors catalog. After Taylors travels with the Continental Singers to Poland he was encouraged to take a second trip there. This song sprang from the injustice and persecution the Church was facing those countries. The song tells the true story of a young man following Jesus command to feed those in prison by taking food to Solidarity members who were being underfed while imprisoned. The young man was found out and beaten to death in the middle of a Warsaw street by two soldiers with the butt of their guns. This nearly has the feel of something U2 would have written during this same time period. I was a victim of December 1981 I took a final beating from the blunt end of a Russian gun You made a memorythe memory will multiply You may kill the body but the spiritit will never die

Over my dead body Redemption draweth nigh Over my dead body I hear a battle cry Try and blow out the fire Youre fanning the flames Were gonna rise up from the ashes Til were ashes again Taking the sins of the world and making them much more introspective Taylor deals with the devastation sin leaves in its wake in Sin for Season. A David Bowie inspired vocal performance is haunting and leaves the listener questioning their own failings. In this song Taylor addresses marital infidelity, drunk driving leading to a death and how Christian will sin while feigning repentance. Gonna get the good Lord to forgive a little sin Get the slate cleaned so he can dirty it again And no one else will ever know But he reaps his harvest as his heart grows hard No mans gonna make a mockery of God Im only human, got no other reason Sin for a season Guilty be Association returns to the sarcastic form with a very white man reggae or world music rhythm. This response to Jimmy Swaggarts attacks on rock music remains a personal favorite, especially midway through when he imitates Swaggart. Well I have found a new utensil In the devils toolbox And the heads are gonna roll If Jesus rocks Its a worldly design! Gods music should be divine! Try buying records like mine Avoid temptation Now today it may be much easier for artist to take direct stabs at the foibles of religious and political leaders, but in 1984 it was simply not the case. It was a bold and refreshing move. Taylor was criticized for naming names. At the same in-store appearance I mentioned earlier he was questioned about using names or being painfully obvious about who the intended target was. He responded by noting Pauls outing of Peter and his hypocrisy and Paul naming those who had deserted him and left the faith.

Hero remains my all time favorite Steve Taylor song. As I have mentioned several times previously, I was a young kid in 1984 trying to get Greg Fast at KYMS to open up the rotation to more edgy music. My thinking was if I could get a ballad on the air and it was a hit it would be easier to add more upbeat songs from the same artist. the reasoning being that if the station listeners were out buying the record they hearing the rest of the songs anyway,, so why not play them. Hero was my first real victory. I finally convinced management to play the song and it became a HUGE hit! They soon after added Sin for a Season and others from the album. Hero comes across as the most autobiographical song on the album. It tells the story of a young boy who loved reading his comic books and fiction stories about heroes. But real life got in the way. His heroes disappointed him and were not real heroes after all. Eventually the subject finds the worlds true hero in Jesus Christ. When the house fell asleep From a book I was led To a light that I never knew I wanna be your hero And he spoke to my heart From the moment I prayed Heres a pattern I made for you I wanna be your hero Jenny at first glance appears to be a story about a young, small town girl who leaves her roots of faith and morals and leaves for the sin and temptation of the big city. The truth of the matter is the song is an allegory for America, who had long since abandoned her Bible Belt faith beginnings and had reached for the brass ring. This rejection of truth and morals leads to the death of the protagonist and to the nation. Baby Doe is simply the saddest and most disturbing song Taylor has ever written. Taylor tells the true story of an Indiana couple in 1982 that went to court to fight for the right to let their Down Syndrome newborn die of starvation. The court allowed it despite the thousands upon thousands of people willing to adopt Baby Doe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_Doe_Law Unfolding today A miracle play This Indiana morn The fatherhe sighs She opens her eyes Their baby boy is born

We dont understand Hes not like we planned The doctor shakes his head Abnormal they cry And so they decide This child is better dead Taylor refuses to accept the argument of choice as he reiterates, this baby has a voice. But not content to simply criticize the parents, press and legal system that allowed the atrocity to unfold, Taylor points the finger back at himself and the Church for its lack of action and outcry. Its over and done The presses have run Some call the parents brave Behind your disguise Your rhetoric lies You watched a baby starve I bear the blame The cradles below And where is baby Taylor would later start Squint Entertainment, a label that included artist like Chevelle and Sixpence None the Richer. He was also the lead vocalist for the amazing band, Chagall Guevara, a band signed to MCA that should have changed the world! There is talk of a movie based on the popular Blue Like Jazz book and film making appears to be the passion. His fans always hold out hope that a new album may one day squeak out but nothing appears to be in the works though rumors of a 2012 release have been heating up recently. In the meantime we can enjoy his works, especially his first full length album, Meltdown.

8. Colours Resurrection Band


November 21, 2011low5point11 comments

COLOURS (1981) Resurrection Band Tower records magazine has featured a fan section called Desert Island Disc for quite some time. The spotlight feature allows readers to send in a list of their top 5 albums that they would take with them to a deserted island. Though we have reached number 8, this current release would be the last of my titles. That means that numbers 7 down to 1 will be albums I consider greater than my personal top 5 favorite. No matter, this one would be number one on that list! From the mid 1970s through the early 1980s my Christian music knowledge and appreciation was informed by a few people that helped me discover the music I love so much today. Reading reviews written by Chris Willman (CCM and LA Times), Thom Granger (CCM), Bruce Brown (several publications) and most notably Brian Quincy Newcomb (Harvest Rock Syndicate) helped introduce me to a wide array of music I would never be able to hear on Christian radio nor find easily in a Christian Bookstore. Their reviews had to be clear as well as expressive in order to convey what a record felt like in order for me to become excited about it. Newcomb, more than the others, appeared to be the radical one who always found and reviewed the more aggressive and progressive acts that I knew would appeal to me. My thoughts were at the time that if Quincy reviewed it and it was positive, then I would try to track it down. It is obvious that the music that one cuts their teeth on seem to have the most lasting impact and the reviews written by those above helped pave the way for much of what I have loved for 40 years. But the greatest impact came from my then future brother-in-law, who for some reason never found it a drag to have to drag his girlfriends little brother around to concerts at Calvary Chapel, the local high school or even Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm.

One such dragging took place in 1979 at a Night of Joy at Disneyland. The night was primarily filled with The Boones, Reba Rambo, Randy Stonehill and a very young Amy Grant. But in the smallest of venues in the entire park he took me to see Barry McGuire and the Resurrection Band. I was familiar enough with McGuires music as my parents had introduced me to Seeds, Lighten Up and the brand new (at the time) Cosmic Cowboy albums. McGuire was his normal affable and wonderful self playing the hits and making jokes in between each song. I do recall him joking that those in the front row may want to get ear plugs for what was to come next. At the time he was saying that I didnt quite understand what everyone was laughing about. It was like being left out of an inside joke. Twenty minutes later I got the joke! That night I bought (or Im guessing my future brother-in-law bought for me) the classic Music to Raise the Dead T-shirt that is still in a box somewhere. Medium? Really, I ever wore a medium? That night I was introduced to the band that would mean more to me spiritually and emotionally than any other band on this list. They would make a career of challenging my walk, informing my social conscience and building a Biblical worldview. All that in three-minute spurts. Resurrection Band is, by far and without question, the most socially conscious and relevant band in Christian music history. Their songs described inner-city life and strife long before any other Christian artist would dare tangle with the issue, outside of possibly Larry Norman. But coming from the point of a Ground Zero lifestyle through their Jesus People USA ministry, the descriptions were authentic and personal. Resurrection Band was the first band in the world to deal with the horrible situation in South Africa involving Apartheid. Their song, Afrikaans, would be written and released a year before Peter Gabriels Biko. Content involving intimacy in marriage, prostitution, drug abuse, sexual deviancy, hypocrisy, suicide, pride and hopelessness were simply unheard of in Christian Music at that time, yet they were staples of Resurrection Bands content. Forming in the early 70s under the name Charity as part of a Christian community in Milwaukee, the band featured husband and wife lead singer, Glenn and Wendi Kaiser. After a move to Chicago and a change of name to Resurrection Band the group released a now rare cassette of demos called Music to Raise the Dead. That tape would actually contain a long time live favorite Quite Enough that would not be officially recorded and released until their live album, Bootleg more than a decade later. In 1978 the band was signed to the Star Song label that also had Petra as an artist and it seemed like it would be a great fit as it was hoped that those at Star Song would understand the aggressive ministry, music and message of the band. But that relationship would only last for two album.

Awaiting Your Reply would be that debut album on Star Song. The album starts with the sound of a man in a subway station turning on the radio to hear the disc jockey say, So hang in there as we play some music byResurrection Band? Howd this get in the stacks? Oh well, heres hopin That creative opening segment kicks straight into some of the hardest rock at the time in Christian music, most definitely the heaviest on a non-independent label. Wendis Grace Slick like vocals trade back and forth with Glenns growling, bluesy voice. For years my throat hurts and turns raw anytime I try to sing along with him. Awaiting Your Reply is very blues driven rock, something akin to what Black Sabbath was doing at the time. The faster songs have more of an Aerosmith sound and Wendis vocals cannot help but cause the listener to think of Jefferson Starship. The album actually sold quite well despite the limited exposure as many Christian bookstores simply refused to carry the album, or if they did, it was hidden behind the counter. I always hated the practice of bookstores doing that and forcing some teenage boy to sheepishly ask if they carried the record as if he was buying a package of condoms. Despite the banning and difficulty in distribution the album still managed to reach the Top 10 in sales. I should note here that the album was paid for, including the artwork by a friend of the band that gave them $8,000 for production and artwork and Star Song saw this as a no-lose situation. It was bought and paid for and would never impact their bottom line. It was still a controversial move as other label had rejected it for fear of tipping over the apple cart of safe Gospel music. But with the sales results it can be honestly said that Resurrection band broke down the barriers for rock and metal in Christian music like no other before or after them. There are several songs of note on this album for worthy consideration: Waves is a great rocker in which Glenn and Wendi trade-off vocals. Broken Promises is an amazing showcase for Glenns blues obsession and remains a favorite of fans even now some 30 years later. Lightshine is the one chord wonder that Glenn joked with me about writing when he didnt know how to sing and play guitar at the same time. The harpsichord makes an appearance on a couple tracks and somehow works as a hard rock instrument. The Return closes out the album with an incredible jazz/rock that is closer to Chicago than Black Sabbath complete with killer sax solo.

Resurrection Bands sophomore attempt was Rainbows End. It would serve as the last for Star Song as I was once told that record company was not as happy with the album and the direction of the band at the time. I never understood if it was the apparently progressive political approach or the music. If it was the first than shame on them! If it was the second I can only question the understanding of modern music of the time by those running the label. It should be noted at this point that the artwork for the first four Resurrection band albums were simply beyond amazing, and way beyond what anyone else was doing at the time. Not just for the artwork itself, but the packaging was impressive. Three of the first four possessed what is called a gate fold which means the packaging opened up to a double wide presentation. There were full lyrics and photos, etc. It was very impressive, especially since that type of artwork is usually reserved for double albums. Rainbows End had artwork that was even more ambitious. They used a die cut technique for the windows on the front cover and the album jacket insert was a firm cardboard like the out cover. You could then turn the inner jacket different directions and display a different vision in the cut out windows. (Album artwork was really cool back then and a sadly lost art). Content-wise the album was more Black Sabbath blues influence hard rock. But it is on Rainbows End that the lyrical content began to show a more socially conscious awareness. This is most notable on the previously discussed Afrikaans. The pure passion of Glenns vocals still sends a chill down my spine even as I listen as I type. Until I die I will never forget the line God makes the color, but the color doesnt make you God. I had an assignment in my creative writing class in High School to bring in the lyrics to a song that we believed work well as spoken poetry. I chose Afrikaans. I got an A! But other songs worthy of note are Skyline, The Wolfsong and Skyline, which proved a harmonica can rock! But the highlight of the album is Glenns unforgettable ballad, Paint a Picture. The ache of longing for hope is just laid out on the canvas of this song. It shows that a rock song can be emotionally moving. There is pain in the voice and whining guitar that simply cannot be matched in other genres. Somewhere between 1979 and 1980 something more than a decade changed. The band found a new home at Light Records where they would stay for the first half of the decade. Light Records

was home primarily to Andrae Crouch and big band conductor, Ralph Carmichael. The label did sport the Sweet Comfort Band, but they were clearly a pop and funk driven band squarely in the heart of Christian music, both musically and lyrically. What that means is that they were seen as rockers who were safe. What came with the change in the decade was a Resurrection Band that rocker faster, harder and with more socially relevant and Biblically striking content. Less Black Sabbath and Jefferson Airplane and more AC/DC and Rush, Colours was a rock tour de force as current as anything for its time and simply a relentless record from the opening instrumental to the closing crescendo cymbals. The production was clean, crisp and loud. The vocals went from bluesy to metal and the guitarsoh, the guitars! The album addresses much of what the band was seeing out their front door in the inner-city of Chicago. Their ministry doors not only reach out the lost, broken and needy in the city, but is placed firmly in the center of it. The band and the ministry members do not truck in from the suburbs in Town and Country minivans, but live, eat, breathe and love right in the epicenter. So, it makes sense that the content would flow from that perspective. Colours is Resurrection Bands defining work. This was AOR radio friendly rock but with decidedly metal edge. It also contains some of Glenns finest and most aggressive vocals. Not a song is a miss and the album, as a complete whole, is the best thematically outside of their swan song, Lament. Mommy Dont Love daddy would compare favorably, but did not have the cohesive sound and maintain the level of intensity that Colours set forth. The album starts with a two-minute instrumental introduction to the Wendi Kaiser lead, Autograph. Starting the album with this instrumental introduction set the stage for what was to come as it introduced the new and heavier musical direction and also worked well as a concert introit. Stu Heiss finest guitar work can be heard on Colours and the intro to Autrograph hints at what would come. By the time Wendi takes on the vocals the song shifted from a groove driven hard rock to a more staccato, borderline punk rhythm. The song addresses how the Lord signs and seals those who are His with his own blood signature that was provided in the cross. I said, Sign here please, and You inscribed Your Name in my heart Didnt know what I was getting into Or what was getting into me for that matter A little slow to understand, Love was the word I was after So Your name kept coming to my lips, Again and again Now I understand, He wanted the heart of this world Youre His Signature, the very Stamp of His Soul

Spirit in the wind, agony of the cross all told Signed in blood The song does warn against those who simply refuse to acknowledge God and how those things that are gods of the lost are like forgeries Forgery, it happens all the time Your truth aint even on their minds One of the strengths of the record is found above; taking a common theme and presenting in powerful and unforgettable imagery. This shows the beginning stages of the growth of Kaiser and the band in regards to their songwriting. Glen wrote or co-wrote the entire album and his mark is indelible. The title track follows and contains one of the best groove riffs in Resurrection Band history. The song is actually a worship song of sorts as it addresses the creative, loving and diverse nature of Gods revelation and that fact that his love is demonstrated to races and colors. And without timing it, it may also contain the longest instrumental break in the bands history outside of any live album. Silence stands with open hands hushed before the King Joy believes and happily praises as she sings Wonder sits in open fields beholding all You made Desire seeks Your colours, each and every shade Whatever one could ask of faith, obedience will give Together all express the love in hearts where Jesus lives A distinctive change in content, both musically and lyrically follows with the driving and grinding N.Y.C. Glen takes the vocals on a much more AC/DC driven hard rock/heavy metal song than any song previously recorded by the band. Glens uncanny ability to scream on key is displayed in the bridge and final verse. But the song starts by introducing the listener to the streets. Out on the curbside, sat a little boy Is crying cause a story to unfold Ive no father, Ive no family Its getting dark and getting cold Ive been left here by myself and all alone Another character is introduced in the second verse, a prostitute whose life is a living hell. When the fix is late, the pimp wont wait and you know youre getting sick. But the imagery of those wanting something more from life here is powerfully demonstrated and expanded to all sinners no matter their lot in life.

No twinkle, twinkle little star No one to wonder who you are Were all just urchins, beggar boys, disowned Like Jack and Jill weve fallen down With bruised and battered, tarnished crowns No water in the well to carry home But Resurrection Band never shies away from the honest reality, not the answer to these problem as the song concludes. Its time we live in honesty, its time we learn to cry To soften our hearts once again Its time we lay our bullets down Embracing Jesus love Salvation comes in no other name Hidden Man follows with a Rush type rock groove that is not as heavy as N.Y.C. but stays with the same rock vein. Here the content is about those who attempt to hide from the truth of Gospel even when it is presented before them. Amazing is similar to Autograph in both that it is fronted by Wendi and because of the more punk rhythm that she would actually be noted for in later records as well. This is the type of song that fits Wendis voice the best. Here she and Glenn trade-off during the chorus in an expression of Gods amazing and unending love. What could possibly be Resurrections Bands finest moments follows with American Dream. What was hinted at previously in the bands critique of modern culture, political corruption, class warfare and much more progressive view of social issues than many in the Church had previously displayed. It is also quite possibly the fastest and heaviest song in their repertoire. Glenns vocals reach a near breaking point with a double time speed guitar riff and lyrical structure. After introducing his past frailty of naivet, Glen than rattles off a list of current problems that has infected and brought about the moral decay that is so prevalent. He finishes with a warning of potential annihilation if the path we are heading down does not shift. This is all in the setting of reading the morning paper. The holy morning paper Slaps the steps of dawn Americas doors open Lets see whats going on Confusion with our coffee Fear and frosted flakes A Shuttle offstage a change of scene The expose of the american dream Watergate burglars comedy relief

Laugh at ideals surviving our griefs Its fools gold for gilded fools Playing gaily with twisted rules Hail to the families in their tv rooms Suicide, genocide, abortion, cartoons Terrorism, violence, starving refugees Conscience, crucified, reality recedes Nuclear tyrants, computerized plan, Holding hostage everyman But here again the band does not feel justified in simply expressing the plight of the situation, but offers the only hope man has for his future survival. Form dust to dust Our lives fades away We are the winds empty sighing Vanity, all vanity All but the cross, all but his dying This song moves immediately into Benny and Sue, a story of a lost couple with no sense of hope. Abortion, sexual promiscuity and an eventual premature death of Benny weave throughout the verses. The story of this lost and forgotten couple rings true and authentic. But rather than an easy answer salvation message, Jesus pleads with Sue to turn toward him but to no avail. This songs served as a great warning track to sinful and selfish living. City Street is similar in theme to N.Y.C. but here the subjects story is told in first person by Glenn. The music is the most AC/DC like on the album as it is a song built around a riff and what a riff it is. Here Glenn is a seeker lost in the city streets with no hope at all. Of all the songs on the album it comes across as the most autobiographical. Like a joke without a punchline Like a rat in a maze Like last years paper Yellow with age I was a deck without a dealer I was a day without a dawn I was a train without a station Until You came along The theme of the lost and lonely on the streets continue with Beggar in the Alleyway. Here the song closes with the realization that joy comes in the morning and hope is there for those who seek and find. The album closes with The Struggle. The band has made a habit of closing albums with thought-provoking and mid-tempo rockers that leave the listener a little haunted and introspective.

My pride wants me to hide inside myself But I love you Lord I dont want our love put on the shelf Im tired of feigning to be who I am Jesus make me what You want me to be Because of You I desire reality But I can only face myself when I face You.. The passion and authenticity with which these words are presented are the trademark that make them such powerful statements. There is not a moment the listener doubts the conviction of the band. This is not a band whose pointing of the finger was for shock value or pretentious in any way. They not only talked the talk the walked the walk and continue to do so to this day. In 1980 a band out of commune in the inner-city of Chicago rocked the Christian world with a work that has transcended time and whose content is just as relevant now some 30 years later. Much music today is no longer relevant 30 minutes later. The band would go on to release many more successful albums throughout the 80s, shocking fans with a short-lived change in musical direction on Hostage incorporating more keyboards and new wave stylings. They would return to the more rock driven roots on following albums and even receive MTV airplay with two songs. They eventually unofficially called it quits at the turn of the millennium, but will still play occasional one-off shows, especially at Jesus People USAs annual Cornerstone Festival. The band did leave on a high note with the Ty Tabor (Kings X) produced, Lament, a wonderful theme album that may be their highest artistic achievement. Whether known as Rez, Rez Band or Resurrection Band when it came sheer audacity, intense and memorable rock and for creating a record that changed how the Church and music industry would consider Christian music, Colours is among the greatest Christian albums of all time.

7. Alarma Daniel Amos


November 22, 2011low5point7 comments

ALARMA (1981) Daniel Amos give up repent good riddance and all Gods blessings on the band that wont go away Camarillo Eddie (The Swirling Eddies) The roots of Daniel Amos and the long and treacherous road the band traveled to reach the cultlike status and well deserved and long lasting relationship with its fan base in a unique story. When they band first was born another Calvary Chapel band had a similar name and both bands decided to change their names. One band became Gentle Faith and the other, featuring Terry Taylor, chose the name Daniel Amos. Both bands were signed to Maranatha! Music and while Gentle Faith only recorded one album before front-man Darrell Mansfield went on to a long and successful ministry and career, it would be Daniel Amos that would make the greater impact on Christian Music. Before recoding their first full-length release Daniel Amos recorded several singles that would appear on different Maranatha Music compilation albums including Aint Gonna Fight It and the long time favorite ode to marital fidelity, Happily Married Man. Both would be added to a special CD-reissue of the classic album.

The first Daniel Amos album (released in 1976) was a self-titled, country music classic that sounded more like The Eagles than Willie Nelson, and that sound was difficult for the band to later overcome. Another never-ending problem was that many fans thought Terry Taylor was Daniel Amos and would thank Mr. Amos for their great music and ministry. It was also during this time that the band would wear these huge 10-gallon cowboy hats that I often thought was more parody than possessing any real affinity for the musical genre. There are so many amazing songs from this album that briefly discussing the album does it no justice. Highlights include the Jehovahs Witness critique, Jesus is Jehovah To Me and another apologetic tune, The Bible. The latter sounding more like The Eagles than just about any other Daniel Amos song. William, Losers and Winners and Walking on the Water would remain favorites for fans for many, many years. There were also songs that were so hokey that the listener cant help but believe they were part parody. Ridin Along comes straight from dusty prairie cowboy movie and Dusty Road follows with the same feel. Taylors wry sense of humor would be visible in songs like Abidin and Skeptics Song. I noticed that from the several times I saw Daniel Amos in concert that those more hokey songs would be reworks drastically and come across as significantly more edgy and less country. Hidden amongst the large hates, spurs and 1-3 beats were great lyrics and amazing vocal harmonies that would remain a staple for many years, even through the alternative, new wave albums. No matter the musical genre the band progressed through the heart of the bands sound was always more Beatles than Eagles or Talking Heads. The Beatles influence would show itself more on the follow-up Jesus Music classic, Shotgun Angel than what was explored on the debut.

It should be fair to note here that those that believe the jump from country music darlings to rock rebels was a radical and unexpected shift simply did not listen closely enough to each album. There were hints of the future sound the band would present on Shotgun Angel on the debut and side two of Angel gives plenty of musical hints as to what was to follow with Horrendous Disc. But what made Shotgun Angel such an important album in history? Side one of the 1977 released album most resembles the debut with strong Eagles tinged Americana country, but with much more of an electric feel and vocals influenced more by the Beach Boys Pet Sounds than previously displayed. The electric guitar is also featured more often. The album also features limited spacing between songs as many flow from one to another. This is even more prevalent on side two, which is more of a rock opera than anything else as the breaks are nearly indistinguishable. The more obviously country leanings are reserved for a more humorous approach like what is found in Black Gold Fever and Meal. Songs like Praise Song and The Whistler would show glimmers as to what would show up on Horrendous Disc. In fact when one listens to side two of Shotgun Angel its hard to not note the sounds that would become Horrendous Disc. The guitar of Better would become a trademark sound that would follow Daniel Amos as long as Jerry Chamberlain was involved. The much ballyhooed side two of the album is actually a mini rock opera dealing with a specific eschatological viewpoint that was and remains quite popular. The Jesus Movement had a few very foundational viewpoints. One of them was the soon expected Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church and the coming rise of the Antichrist and Tribulation his arrival would usher in. The story starts with a beautiful instrumental overture that would serve as a musical backdrop for the albums final songs. Lady Goodbye picture the Church disappearing at Christs first Second Coming in a pretribulation rapture scenario with the main character being left behind to endure the coming tribulation complete with four horsemen (The Whistler) and mark of the Beast (Hes Gonna Do a Number on You). Better describes the supposed cashless society that is to accompany that time and mans belief and admiration of the Antichrist.

Awakening from the horrible dream to find that it is all real the main character embraces the call of the Gospel no matter what the cost. Posse in the Sky reveals the second Second Coming, this time with the angels and previously raptured Church in tow bringing final judgment against the earth. All those done in a country/cowboy theme evident with words like Possee and Shotgun.

In 1986 Terry and band would re-release side two of Shotgun Angel as a project called Revelation through Frontline Records at the 10th Anniversary of the original. The reworking included brand new mixes and a new song called Soon. This version also included Pastor Chuck Smith reading relevant passages from the book of Revelation. Those familiar with this particular eschatological views will find the message of the songs familiar. Even those like myself that do not hold to this particular can find the project powerful, exhorting and encouraging. Agreement on such issues are not as vital as noting that Paul challenged the Church in Thessalonica to encourage one another with the affirmation of Christs coming. Daniel Amos would begin recording Horrendous Disc in late 1977 and early 1978. The album was finished and the masters were brought to Maranatha! Music. At that same time Maranatha! Music decided to no longer release albums by rock artists and concentrated primarily on the new Praise and Worship line and childrens music. This classic album would be released just weeks before Alarma and the confusion it created in the industry and amongst fans was career threatening. The musical leap from Shotgun Angel to Alarma is staggering, but it is not quite as drastic when Horrendous Disc is placed in between. Many fans bought Alarma before they even knew Horrendous Disc existed. If HD would have been released when it should have, the progression would have appeared more natural, though probably never quite expected. Word Record acquired the masters from Maranatha! in early 1978. They eventually leased them to Larry Normans Solid Rock label. This put Daniel Amos in friendly territory with artists like Mark Heard, Alwyn Wall and longtime friend Randy Stonehill. It also started the longest and most frustrating three years in the bands tenure. During that time Terry and band would build a long-lasting friendship with Randy Stonehill which included several long tours where Daniel Amos would serve as Stonehills band as well as

perform their own set. Terry would produce three albums for Stonehill, the most notable being Stonehills classic Equator. Those famous tours were known as the Amos and Randy Tour. During those tours and other concerts they would begin playing songs from Horrendous Disc. They would continue to play those songs for three years with no album to support. Test pressings of the album were sent out to radio stations in 1979 and also sent to the band to sell at concerts. The album contained a different mix and different order of songs. Those issues would be the least of their problems as the album would still not be released for another two years. This issue (along with others too ugly to address) caused a rift with Norman that would never be healed. Even in 2000 when Norman finally released the album on CD it contained bonus cuts by Norman that fans (myself included) hated. And when Taylor approached Norman in 2006 to rerelease the CD as a Deluxe version Norman agreed, but then backed out and released another horrible version of the album, this time as a CDR with a horrible artwork copies. The album did officially get released in 1981. About one week before their follow Alarma! hit the stores. Alarma! was the first of an amazing 4-part album set that includes many of Daniel Amos greatest work. Each album contained a continuing story and lyrical content that matched. By the time the four album set was finished the band would have gone through four record companies (one for each release) and a name change of sorts. The first two albums used the entire name, Daniel Amos, while the third used the DA with a small font for the name and the final album, Fearful Symmetry, would sport only the DA moniker. 1983s Doppelganger was a darker and much more haunting release. It was also much more personal and dealt with the sins of the individual as well as the sins of the Church. Though the more outward attacks against commercialism (New car, Mall All Over the World) and televangelist (I Didnt Build It For Me) were easy targets it is the more introspective and personal songs that pack a real punch. 1984s Vox Humana would be the most commercially accessible of the four projects. Sounding m a little more like David Bowie and Talking Heads, the songs are more pop and commercial sounding. there were even some singles that penetrated Christian radio. Southern Californias famous KYMS even played a few songs included the very popular Sanctuary. The album is more upbeat and brighter lyrically and lends itself to the poppier musical edge. The final album in the series, Fearful Symmetry, would be hailed by many as their greatest artistic achievement. Of course many would also reserve that for every DA album upon its release. Fearful Symmetry would contain upbeat rhythms and melodies, but a more haunting vocal production to give the album an other-worldly feel to it. The album would also contain one of DAs most successful rock radio single, The Pool. Each album that makes up the 4-part series would appear on a different label, making a cohesive marketing opportunity utterly impossible. Distribution was limited for some, OK for others. Musical direction would change, occasional shifts in band personnel and much too expensive

tours would cause financial strain. Yet, all the while, the band created fresh, dynamic and lasting art with each release. But it really all started with Alarma. Those that discovered Alarma before they ever heard Horrendous Disc must have been utterly surprised the listener. Without thew knowledge of the transitional album Alarma was shocking to say the least. There was also controversy surrounding the album cover with the band members having their eyes blurred over. More than a few televangelist would make claims of Satanic origin of the cover. Of course they never bothered to note how the eyes appeared elsewhere on the project. The symbolism of the cover would be all too apparent in the lyrical content on the album. Reviewers described the album as having some of the most scathing commentary of the Church and society ever recorded. No one safe from Taylors attacks. Remaining blind to the injustices and the downtrodden would be a theme that would be repeated over and over. Songs like Face to the Windows, Alarma, Big Time/Big Deal, Props, My Room and others would all deal directly with an apathetic Church that hides behind its own facade. Musically Alarma and the entire series would find itself squarely in the forefront of the burgeoning Christian punk/new wave scene. Others came right before and after, but few matched the lyrical precision and musical chops of DA. Carrying the banner of both a musical genre and a lyrical assault must have not been easy. Central Theme starts the record and the series off with a realization that the central theme in life is that of knowing Christ. In an odd way, it is a worship song of sorts.Lyrically one of Taylors finest doctrinal standards and brilliant musical landscape of other worldly, almost science fiction sounding music. This auditory theme would remain throughout this project as even as the content of the song reads like a hymn. Who is on the throne you find, the King of Kings Hes the one I have in mind, the central theme Lord of Lords, Lord of lords, Lord of Lords The title track and series namesake follows with a Twilight Zone type synthesizer sound introducing Jerry Chamberlains crunchy and quirky guitar riff. Taylors melodic and utterly unique voice dives home a brilliant song that in the real world should have been a mainstay on stations like LAs KROQ. The song sets the tone, musically and lyrically, for the entire project and introduces the theme of a Church blinded to the harsh realities of the needy while basking comfortably in its own safe zone. Yet it is the false teachings and false living within the walls of the church that causes many to reject the Christ of the Central Theme. The scarier music moments for the uninitiated begin with Big Time/Big Deal. The frenetic new wave with a dual lyric vocal with an spoken work, electronic voice sits under Taylors near screeching and straining voice on top. The lure of thinking one could take the Gospel to the world and become a rock star for Jesus was an all too real enticement for many. The selfish

motives of many in the music industry (Christian) are examined here. Chamberlain would really begin to fine tune his craft of off-kilter, winding and quivering guitar sound here. The facade of the perfect Christian life is ripped to shreds in Props, couched in a melody that i can only describe as the Beach Boys doing old school cowboy music. Like something from a 1940s musical movie the song somber message is not lost amongst the happy music. The facade that surround our lives are not unlike the movie props that are removed and disposed of when the scene is over. The funky groove that permeates My Room reminds one of the great grooves created by the Talking Heads and should serve as a decent comparison at times. The consistent theme of exclusionary actions of the Church and the loneliness attached to a Church life without true community is repeated here. Faces to the Windows is one of the scathing songs on the album and remains uncomfortable some 30 years later. Using the image of the starving children in Africa is juxtaposed against the sunshine, whistling world of many in the Church. Taylor tries, like most, to block out the faces pressed against the window of the television set while proceeding with a uniquely blessed life situation. The aggressive new wave musical expression takes on its finest form here. Cloak and Dagger is just too short. Two minutes of brilliant musical and lyrical expressions. Using a James Bond type spy thriller melody that matches the lyrical content perfectly. After just one minute of pure 80s punk goodness, the song shift musical direction completely with a one minute slow instrumental featuring a great guitar solo. For those that hadnt jumped ship by this time on the album, The Real Thing most certainly pushed them off the edge. Funky, punk and new wave with African rhythms sets the musical stage for an equally aggressive message. The Church has a long standing struggle with majoring on the minor issues and causing intense and lasting divisions over style, appearance and tradition. Whether it is the drums in the service or the hats worn in one Church over another, the struggle for authenticity and truth wages on. After a keyboard instrumental of the melody from Cloak and Dagger in C&D Reprise, the album reaches a real musical zenith with Through the Speakers. With all the power music possesses the song realizes that ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit will be necessary to reach the intended audience. A real musical shift takes place with the melodic and very poppy Hit Them. This very Brian Wilson like tune looks at the need for the Church to reach out with love and not just doctrine filled words. There is a warning here to not only believe the truth but to live accordingly. Like many songs on the album it remains much too short. Taylor sets the Apostle Pauls warning regarding remaining a babe in Christ to a brilliant early 80s new wave groove that reminds me most of some of David Bowies more adventurous new wave attempts. The song revolves around many in the church who are content remaining well fed

within its walls and never grow or mature spiritually. Its not unlike Amy Grants Fat baby except this song doesnt suck :). But the albums winner of the Way Too Stinking Short award goes to the 80-second Shedding the Mortal Coil. Brilliant and way too short! There is no way to escape the comparison to Horrendous Discs Tidal Wave with Endless summer. This rocking surfer tune seems to not only share a musical pedigree but also a similar theme of needing to find the truth in places where it cannot and will not be found. I do recall the song being a great fun ride live. When one has a songwriting catalog as extensive as Terry Scott Taylors it is both foolish and nearly impossible to choose the best song. I will not make that foolish leap, but i find very few songs quite as lasting and wonderful as Wall of Doubt. Covered later by many artists including Jacobs Trouble, the song is nearly perfect. A great and timeless melody mixed with a powerful message of the strength of the truth of the Gospel. The song sounds fresh right now even as I listen to it 30 years after is was first played. On an album filled with angst, anger and righteous indignation, the closing message of hope and grace is a just reward for those willing to take the journey. The album closes with Ghost of the Heart, and would also serve as the opening track (in a way) for the follow up release, Doppelganger. This was not the album many fans and the industry were expecting. It was the album anyone ever thought would be released by a Christian band. This adventurous display of brilliant songwriting, musicianship and sheer artistic brilliance has lasted way beyond the vast majority of disposable music created at the same time. It may not rank as the greatest album ever made, but it is clearly one of the most important and necessary. The world may not have changed in 1981but mine did! And we fans are forever grateful that Terry and company never went away.

6. Welcome to Paradise Randy Stonehill


November 22, 2011low5point33 comments

WELCOME TO PARADISE (1976) Randy Stonehill I was eleven or twelve years old and at a Family Camp with my Church in Big Bear, CA. My parents always gave me spending money for candy, maybe a T-shirt or for any activities that might cost money like horseback riding. I learned over the years to eat enough sausages for breakfast not to need too much candy, bring enough clothes not to need another T-shirt and I have an inexplicable fear of horses. So, with all that extra money I would usually buy a tape or two from the camps bookstore. I bought my first albums from Servant, Darrell Mansfield and Parable at that store. But the very first tape I ever bought there was Randy Stonehills Welcome to Paradise. I bought it because the guy on the cover had long hair and a really cool Jesus T-Shirt. I was completely unaware of Randy Stonehill at the time. I later discovered a decidedly lo-fi, half-live album called Born twice had been previously released.

Recorded primarily before a live audience and a few songs produced in the studio all on a budget that shoestrings ridicule. Once asked when the album would be released on CD, Stonehill responded something to the effect it would happen when someone in charge makes a grave error

in judgment. As seriously troubled as the production is what the album does provide is a glimpse into the early faith of a legend in Christian Music. The album also shows glimpses of the humor and on stage persona that would cause hundreds of thousands to become fans. Part comedian, part musician, part street preacher, the Randy Stonehill introduced on Born Twice was and remains utterly unique in the music business whether Christian or not. That was 1971 and it would be another five years before he would release another album. Those years were filled with growth, both spiritually and artistically. He would co-star with Laverne and Shirley star Cindy Williams in the sequel to the legendary B-movie, The Blob, the not-somemorable, Beware! The Blob which is known better as Son of Blob. During that time he also was writing a lot of music with new found friends Larry Norman, Phil Keaggy and Keith Green. In fact, one of the real classics of the Jesus Music era, Your Love Broke Through, would be recorded by Keaggy, Green, Russ Taff and finally himself over a decade later.

There would also be the recording of the mysterious Get Me Out of Hollywood that would not be released for several decades though cassette versions of the album and some limited vinyl pressings were said to be in existence. That album would contain two songs that would later become Stonehill favorites (Puppet Strings, Jamies Got the Blues), but with distinctly different arrangements. There are probably several good reasons why the album never saw the light of day, including the production quality and the quality of a few of the songs. But it was 1976s Welcome to Paradise that launch a career that would last over 30 years, untold concerts, several record labels, an equal number of producers and a catalog of brilliant and enduring albums. Despite a legacy that is rivaled by few if any, it is the first truly nationally released album that demands our attention here. Welcome to Paradise would remain the definitive work for Stonehill through is more than 30 year career. It combined the genuine innocence of a new convert and the songwriting of a skilled craftsman. Walking bravely between James Taylor like ballads and Eagles oriented AOR, this debut bring several years of honing his songwriting skills to a fountainhead of poetic expression amidst heartfelt acoustic rock. The album serves as a gateway between the days of the Jesus Music innocence of the early 70s to the more industry driven CCM. The album also marks the finest

production of Larry Normans career. Larry may have made better albums but has never produced such a fine work that sounds good now some 30 plus years later. If some one only listened to the opening track of Welcome to Paradise one might get the impression this a nice little acoustic folk album along the lines of James Taylor and Jim Croce. But I cant imagine another song on the album being a better way to open the album up. King of Heart is the albums evangelical call to accept Gods love set the lyrical tone of grace that permeates the record. Aside from that it is also a beautiful song that Randy still plays. It begins with this common ailment of mankind to realize that we all have a place in our heart that can only be filled by Jesus. All alone drifting wild Like a ship thats lost out on the ocean Everyones a homeless child And its not hard to understand Why we need a Fathers hand Theres a rainbow somewhere You were born to be there Youre just running in circles Till you reach out your hand to the King of hearts. The other important point to note about the song is the very simple, yet effective acoustic guitar work of Stonehill. This would be a trademark style for Stonehill over the decades; simple yet dynamic guitar work. It could be said that he is actually quite an underrated guitar player. Next up is what I firmly believe is Stonehills finest song, Keep Me Runnin. This song rocks harder than most acoustic driven songs ever do. In a very Eagles type Americana/Blues driven groove Stonehill tells of the heart that refuses the Gospel message. I believe those familiar with the song will also agree it may contain one of the very best acoustic guitar solos recorded. KEEP ME RUNNIN FROM THE SHADOW OF MY LIES LIKE A GYPSY WHO IS NEVER SATISFIED ONCE YOU COMPROMISE YOUR SOUL YOU SPEND A LIFETIME DODGING THE DEVILS TOLL BUT YOU KEEP ME RUNNIN KEEP ME COVERIN UP MY TRACKS KEEP ME RUNNIN SO IM ALWAYS LOOKING BACK ALWAYS RESTLESS IN MY DREAMS AND TROUBLES NEVER TOO FAR BEHIND IT SEEMS Chorus KEEP ME RUNNIN KEEP ME MOVIN KEEP ME ALWAYS ON THE GO KEEP ME MAKIN SURE MY FOOTPRINTS NEVER SHOW

The Eagles sounding acoustic rock continues with The Winner (High Card), a song that, like the above tells the story of someone who finds any all excuses to avoid the truth and the reality of the Gospel. The closing of the song really shows Stonehills strong and diverse vocal abilities. But the heart of the song is the conviction with which Stonehill delivers the lyrics. Its not easy to see me Im an influential man / And I never needed anyone To build my promised land So dont tell me about Jesus cause Hes just too hard to sell And I never trust in strangers thats the first rule I Learned well Im the winner and I made it to the top And I took it all just like I planned Im the man who holds the high card in his hand Lung Cancer marks the initial foray into Stonehills more humorous songwriting technique. The musical expression works better here than in most similar Stonehill experiments because of lack of novelty kitsch that other songs of that variety posses. The anti-smoking song also works precisely because it never takes itself all too seriously while still trying to pass along a message. Stonehills strongest ballad on the project (and one of his best ever?) is up next. Puppet Strings possesses a stunning string arrangement with a haunting melody which matches the message perfectly. Here we find the plight of rebellious man who is a willing victim to the fall. Here paradise is lost through rebellion and the desire to be the kings of our own kingdom. Long ago He chose us to inherit all His kingdom And we were blessed with light But wandering away we disobeyed Him in the garden And stumbled into night And I can feel it in my soul Now the end is getting near I can hear the angels weeping And its ringing in my ears We are all like foolish puppets who desiring to be kings Now lie pitifully crippled after cutting our own strings Where Puppet Strings leaves man in rebellion and lost First Prayer provides the answer to that hurting and lost world. This song is the prayer of a young man looking for answers to basic questions of doubt and wonder.

I will follow if Youll lead me Help me make a stand If Youll breathe new breath inside me Ill believe you can Ill believe You can Well I never really learned to pray But You know what Im tryin to say I dont want my life to end Not ever knowing why it began So if Youll trust me Ill do my best and Ill be trusting You for the rest As side two of the album continues the struggles of sin, questions and doubt and refusal to accept the Gospel message is replaced by songs centered on the power of the Gospel and its impact on the individual. So, after the First Prayer the Gospel message is directly presented in Ive Got News For You. Ever feel as if your heart was whispering Like a special Voice you never heard before And something deep inside your soul was tickin As if someone was pounding on the door Ive got news for you this is not a game Ive got news for you are you listenin Ive got news for you we are all the same Ive got news for you this is not a game Ive got news for you we are all the blame And when that is understood we can start to live again Once again here the authenticity of the message is carried by the transparency and passion of the vocal performance. Larry Normans influence is quite apparent on the arrangement and backing vocals. Song for Sarah became somewhat controversial for all the wrong reasons. The song is about someone who loves another so much that he aches to his bones because she doesnt know Jesus. He longingly calls for her to find the Lord and assures her that someone loves her more than he ever could.He so wants her to find value in her love through the one who loves her best. Sarah Someone loves you in a way I never could He laid His life before you on a cross made out of wood Oh and in His hour of anguish our dreams were given birth

I hope you finally realize how much your love is worth It is actually quite a beautiful song and one must wonder what the controversy. Stonehills first wife was named for Sarah and many believed that the song was written for her which Stonehill denies. So after the divorce people familiar with the situation were offended and bothered by him continuing to sing the song not realizing the name choice was not related to her. It is truly a controversy around a song that should have never been. Christmas Song for All Year Round is a Christmas song that talks as much about Easter as it does Christmas. It wisely reminds Christians that as important as Christmas is, its importance is only as a result of the sacrifice on the cross. And I know that if Saint Nicholas was here he would agree The Jesus gave the greatest gift of all to you and me They led Him to the slaughter on a hill called Calvary And mankind was forgiven Mankind was forgiven We were all forgiven when they nailed Him to the tree So Merry Christmas The album closes with the funky and driving rocker, Good News. As the album concludes and the Gospel is firmly established the album finishes with the popular Jesus Music theme of the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus Music was birthed at the same time as the rise in popularity of discussion of the rapture and Second Coming. Like the rest of the album it should be noted Jon Linns amazing guitar work. I have mentioned Linn elsewhere and I must admit his guitar work was utterly original and played a very significant role in the creation of some of the finest and most authentic rock at the time. Hal Lindseys Late Great Planet Earth and other similar books were quite popular and it was reflected in the content of the music form that was also growing in popularity. This mixed with the heavy emphasis of this particular view of the doctrine of eschatology at Calvary Chapel another epicenter for the Jesus Music made this a primary topic in the lyrics of Jesus Music artists. This would remain a primary lyrical emphasis through most of the 1980s as well. Recently this emphasis has diminished much to chagrin of some and the happiness of others. I point it out here because of the heavy emphasis in the music of Jesus Music artists that we will be discussing going forward on a few final albums to be discussed. I still have that cassette I bought at a family camp over 30 years ago. I have had an LP and CD of this record as well over the years and havent needed to play the cassette. I am not ever sure it still works. I have my doubts. But I never plan on getting rid of it.

5. For Him Who Has Ears to Hear Keith Green


November 26, 2011low5point12 comments

FOR HIM WHO HAS EAR TO HEAR (1977) Keith Green The three men I admire most The Father, Son and Holy Ghost They took the last train for the coast The day the music died Don McLean American Pie There is an on going debate as to when the Jesus Movement and the Jesus Music that is attached to it actually ended. Some have argued that ended with the increase in large Christian record companies. Others believe it was when Churches or ministries stopped being the focal point of distribution centers of the albums and artists. Other argue that it was when artists stopped asking for free love offerings and started demanding minimum pay outs and contracts with demands. Quite often I hear it is when artists stopped performing altar calls at the end of their concerts. Some simply state the turn of the decade between the 70s and the 80s spelled its doom. I will avoid the fray and only make one statement regarding this issue. The Jesus Movement with its emphasis on evangelism, giving, street witnessing, free will offerings, altar calls and ministry focus prioritization may have died anytime between 1978 and 1984 as Christian labels began to be absorbed by larger companies who were in turn absorbed by secular, international

conglomerates, but the heart of the Jesus Movement and Jesus Music itself died on July 28th, 1982 when an overfilled Cassna 414 crashed just after takeoff outside of Lindale, Texas. On that ill-fated flight were 12 people including the pilot. There was a missionary family; father, mother and six children. Two other children were on board as well. The youngest was two years old. Her name was Bethany Green. Her father, also on the flight, was named Keith. When Keith Green was 10 years old he was hailed as the next big thing in rock and roll. He was one of the youngest solo artists ever signed to a record deal and was the youngest to ever be signed to ASCAP as he was not only the next big heart-throb and cover boy of teen magazines, but he could write and perform his own music even before he became a teenager. He signed to Decca Records in 1965 and released a couple singles as well as making appearances on The Jack Benny and Steve Allen shows. He was a teen idol in the making. But then along came Donny Osmond and the cute curly-haired boy seemed to fade from the spotlight. God had a different plan for young Mr. Green and the world and the Christian community would be better off for it. After years of drugs, free love and a self-serving lifestyle, Green found God in a very real and radical way. He developed friendships with other musicians rather quickly and began writing songs for others and started a radical ministry in which he bought several houses in a Los Angeles suburb and made them available to recently converted drug users, ex-convicts and prostitutes. The little neighborhood community was named Last Days Ministries. Some of those friends he developed included Randy Stonehill, Phil Keaggy and the Ward siblings known then as the 2nd Chapter of Acts. One of the first collaborative efforts became the Jesus Music classic Your Love Broke Through, originally recorded by Phil Keaggy and later by Green and a host of other artists. In 1976 he signed a record deal with the ministry focused Sparrow label and lent his talents to the classic, contemporary musical Firewind. One year later the Christian community would be introduced to the man who would be labeled part poet, part preacher, part prophet. His musical style was a piano based pop rock with similarities to Elton John and Billy Joel. His lyrical style was a confrontational, prophetic and exhorting style with similarities to Jeremiah, Joel and John the Baptist! He would record and release four albums before his death in 1982 including his debut, which is the subject of our writing here, No Compromise, So You Want to Go Back to Egypt and Songs for the Shepherd.

Sparrow would release a Best Of collection before his death as well as his relationship with them lasted for only the first two albums. He decided to make a radical shift in the marketing and sales of his product by offering the album only in concert and through mail order. Though that part of the marketing was not original, what was different is that he made the albums available for whatever the person could afford, even if that meant free. Over 25% of the sales of the following albums were sent out at no charge. Eventually distribution deals were worked out so that Christian Bookstores could sell his product but they were originally only available as two packs where the buyer would receive two copies for the price of one and were expected to use the free copy as a ministry tool to evangelize. There were several posthumously released albums, primarily best of collections, live recording and tribute albums. There were two complete original recording released of songs that had been recorded, at least in demo form, by Keith before his death. They were The Prodigal Son and Jesus Commands Us to Go.

The latter was a primary theme of Greens ministry. Concert were not only evangelistic rallies but were also rallying events calling a complacent Church to missions and evangelism. His lyrical content and between song talks would reflect this position and passion. According to biographies and interviews Green was fascinated and impressed by the evangelist and preacher, Leaonard Ravenhill. Ravenhills no-nonsense evangelistic approach and fiery sermonizing would leave a lasting impression on Green that would inform his worldview and theological leaning. This would be all so present on the debut album, For Him Who Has ears to Hear, the object of our discussion. The primary theological pool that Green drew from was of the Finnyist and Arminian variety and he took seriously the call to proclaim the need for works and to warn of apostasy. This would

show most often in his songs directed toward himself. Greens focus though is directly related to the Church and what he saw as a complacency. Taking a cue from Tony Campolo Green proclaimed that we are to go unless we are called to stay. The exclusively law oriented content would start to even itself out with a more gracious understanding in the following releases. Though there was plenty of content aimed at the inadequacies of the Church, there was a much better understanding of Gods grace and His working within his Church. One interesting note to consider is Greens belief in the deceptive nature and actions of the Devil. The first three projects all contain a song that deals with Satan. It stands out because of the very limited number of Christian artists that deal with the subject and here Green had recorded three songs on three albums. One other important progression on later albums like Egypt is the beginning of a more worshipful tone. The album contain the worship classic O Lord, Youre Beautiful, a focus that would consume his final album, Songs for the Shepherd. More than worship Greens songs come across more like hymns. Songs for the Shepherd would be Greens final release before his death. It almost seems fitting that the final album would be an album dedicated to worship and contain hymns that would continue for decades, possibly centuries to come. Songs that continue to be used in Churches worldwide even today include How Majestic Is Thy Name, You Are the One and There Is a Redeemer. But our focus here is on the record that started it all in the Summer of 1977. The sweet-natured half-smile, kind eyes and one-way finger nearly obscured by the head and face of hair on the cover does not serve as indication as to what laid within the grooves of this album. This is not sweet, syrupy, pabulum CCM with songs of encouragement for your tough days. Though the Jeremiah in rags pointing at Gods people with the Word as a sword would be the experience of the following album, No Compromise, there still is the ever-present call for repentance and holy living. But also noticeable are songs obviously written at a time just after conversion focusing on those beginning moments of love and joy. This debut album would not only showcase Greens songwriting and vocal acumen, but would also be the most piano focused release. There are times that the listener feels like Green is sitting in his living room playing their piano and performing just for them. The central focus of the piano in the instrumentation and mic puts one of Greens finest skills front and center. The reason for this is that the album was recorded almost completely live in the studio with very limited overdubbing, just limited to strings and backing vocals. This live feel was probably as much for budget as for the listeners experience, but for this record it works. The focus throughout remains the voice, the piano, the songs.

The album starts with You Put This Love In My Heart, a Elton John type piano driven pop song reflecting on Gods undying love and intrusive offer of love and grace. Cause your love has released me From all thats in my past And I know I can believe you When you say Ill never be forsaken Your love is gonna last Theres so much more I should say If I could just find a way You put this love in my heart A continuing theme of Gods faithfulness amidst our sin is the focus of the ballad I Cant Believe It! which introduces an endearing and lasting (though short lived due to his death) ballad form. The Elton John quality here is often where Green is at his finest. Because of You handles the same topic but in a decidedly more upbeat fashion. Where the former is more introspective the latter deals with how the change in ones life impacts those around them. Now people just cant believe, that my life used to be Something that no one had any use for Id stay at home each night, never shine the light And i thank you, it will never be like before Its because of you People point at me and say i like what that boys got And because of you I confess i dont have a lot But what i have is because of you Now people smile at me and ask me what it is That makes them want to be just like i am So i just point to you and tell them, yes its true Im no special one, im just one man Its because of you The more upbeat songs tend to showcase Greens amazing piano work in a rock format and this song may be his finest work on the album using this style. His rollicking piano form owes much to the Jerry Lee Lewis revivalistic R&B. One song from the album that remained a radio standard for many years to follow is When I Hear the Praises the Start. This song of Gods undying love for His bride is sung from the point of view of Jesus calling out to His Church.

My child, My child, why are you weeping You will not have to wait forever That day and that hour is in My keeping The day Ill bring you into Heaven For when I hear the praises start My child, I want to rain upon you Blessing that will fill your heart I see no stain upon you Because you are My child and you know me To me youre only holy Nothing that youve done remains Only what you do in Me Honky-tonk piano highlights Hell Take Care of the Rest, a song that continues the theme of Gods persevering work for His people. using Moses and Noah as Biblical examples of Gods faithfulness. This song shows Greens more playful and humorous side that would be nearly completely absent on No Compromise and return on Egypt. The classic Your Love Broke Through follows. There is an interesting story regarding the song. Green had written the song a few years earlier with Randy Stonehill but graciously allowed Phil Keaggy to record the song and release it before himself. That is simply unheard of not only today, but ever. And with all due respect to Stonehill, Keaggy and others, this is the definitive version. The first of Greens trilogy of songs about the Devil follows with No One Believes In Me Anymore. Again here Green displays his lighter and more humorous side. Honky-tonk piano again drives this song about the limited belief on the Devil, both in and out of the Church. The point is the deceptive nature of Gods enemy, his greatest deception being that of getting people to no longer believe in him. The song works as a musical version of CS Lewis classic book, The Screwtape Letters. Oh, my job keeps getting easier As day slips into day The magazines, the newspapers Print every word I say This world is just my spinning top Its all like childs play You know, I dream that it would never stop But I know its not that way Still my work goes on and on Always stronger than before Im gonna make it dark before the dawn Since no one believes in me anymore!

Well, I used to have to sneak around But now they just open their doors Greens most passionate performance is reserved for Song to My Parents, a plea to his family to find the love that God has for them. As one whose entire family are believers I can only imagine how heart breaking this experience must be for people. Trials Turned to Gold deals with the common struggle all Christians face when coming against difficult times and trying to understand Gods plan amidst the trials. The view from here is nothing near To what it is for You I tried to see Your plan for me But I only acted like I knew Oh Lord forgive the times I tried to read your mind Cause you said if Id be still Then I would hear your voice The album closes with Greens version of the 2nd Chapter of Acts classic Easter Song. This song in unique on the album as it is the only song not written or co-written by Green and one of the few times he covered a song on any album in his career. It should be noted that Green does add a verse not in the original. Greens voice, though, is brighter and stronger on this song than just about any other in his career. This remains one of the two or three greatest songs of the Jesus Music era and Greens version is a worthy one and the perfect way to finish this amazing and timeless classic record. Greens impact on Christian music and ministry cannot be understated. There have been three tribute albums made by various artist including one by rock and alternative label, Tooth and Nail nearly 20 years after his death. His impact was so great that a collection of artist there were in diapers when he dies were moved and motivate enough to lend themselves to covering his amazing music. I only saw Keith Green in concert once if it can be called a concert at the Anaheim Convention Center. I dont recall too many songs from that evening. I dont even remember much of what Green had to say. What I do remember was that he demanded after the last song that everyone not applaud, get up and leave quietly and not to talk until they got to their vehicle. I did not leave convicted as I am sure was the purpose, but rather left condemned. The grace of God was a foreign subject that evening. There was plenty of law present but no grace. I would later come to discover Greens approach was very similar to that of traveling evangelist of the 1800s, Charles Finney.

I have had several people tell me that as Keiths ministry matured his level of grace presented increased and the case made for evangelism was more compelling than condemning. Unfortunately for me that evening informed my opinion of Green and his music more than the music itself and I did not listen to Greens music until after his death in 1982, some three years after the concert I attended. Oddly enough when I share this story I find that I was not alone in my response. Right or wrong there were several others like myself that possessed the same testimony and feelings regarding Keith and his music. But in hindsight I discovered the true treasure that was Keith Green and especially the debut record that bore the message of Jeremiah, the zeal of John the Baptist and the heart of the Jesus Movement.

3. The Joshua Tree U2


January 9, 2012low5point20 comments

THE JOSHUA TREE (1987) U2 released just weeks before another album in the Top 10, U2s Joshua tree remains one of the greatest experiments in rock music and a truly glorious experience. Though side two slows down and cannot compete with the majestic perfection of side one, it is still a nearly flawless album that I would buy if released today. It also was number one on this list at least 50 times, but I just could not bring myself to list it as the very best CCM has to offer. There are no real reasons other than i find the other two albums to be listed above to be superior for totally different reasoning. In the summer of 1985 I moved from Orange county, California to Boston, Massachusetts to work with Dan Russell (Fingerprint Records, NewSound Magazine) and his crew to promote and put on the NewSound Festival in Rhode Island. I learned a lot about the rest of the world once

moving out of the Orange Curtain, especially the acceptance (or lack thereof) of Christian music. Orange County was filled with edgy Christian bands and the Churches in the area generally accepted the music and even non-Christian enjoyed many of the bands like Undercover, the Lifesavers and the Altar Boys. Boston was a different world completely. The number of Christians could be counted on ones left hand and the CCM world was a foreign language for most of the society. Russell always had an uphill battle to promote shows and get his wonderful magazine the placement it deserved. But Russell also knew how to make inroads into the mainstream market and reach and work with some amazing artists on the fringe of CCM or whose feet were firmly planted in secular music. Robin Lane, Pierce Pettis, Bruce Cockburn and mark heard were amongst his friends and partners. But it was U2 that would make the biggest impact. Russell befriended Bono and the band during their first trip to America after playing their first show in Boston. the friendship would last and Russell would serve as a Road manager for the band on several different occasions. For the few months I was living in the area I stayed at Russells parents house about 45 minutes outside of Boston. They had a basement room that was always set up and i was welcomed there. I should note my acceptance was met with some ridicule for a two week period when my Los Angeles Lakers beat their Boston Celtics in the NBA Championship. In fact, I was told i needed to find another place to live for a few days about that time, though they situation was unrelated to NBA rivalry. The story goes that they had already promised the room to someone who was visiting for a few days. I was 20 and could crash just about anywhere, so I had no problem with it. I did have a problem when i found out later that it was Bono who was staying there and i didnt get a dinner invitation. But it was the first time I met Bono (I have met in on four different occasions) and was the most casual of all of the meetings. Bono was on an extended holiday between the release of Unforgettable Fire the previous year and the recording of The Joshua Tree that would begin a year later. It was during this holiday and travel that came with it that Bono began to write songs that would alter make up the bulk of The Joshua tree. His love affair with America was blossoming and this trip would leave an impression that would allow him to create the bands finest work and most lasting artistic achievement. This album would also mark the firsttime where Bono would work through a song as a songwriter, instead of the stream of consciousness stylings of the bands earlier work. This process works as the songs are clearly more focused, more creative and lyrically compelling than any previous works. The band had worked through its flag waving phase with Unforgettable Fire and their political infused rhetoric would give way to a more thoughtful and, at times, perplexing message. A band with all the answers became a band loaded with nothing but questions. Even on the most

expressive songs, the album lacks a real clearly defined position, but rather Bono joins with masses in asking the bigger questions and is comfortable without having all the answers. One other thought about the album and its firsts for the band, is that I find it to be the first studio album. The first three were clearly live feeling and TUF was experimental, but not necessarily a band sounding project. TJT sounds like a real studio album from a real band. With TJT, U2 became a real band. Producing legends Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois were once again tapped for this release after their successful work on the predecessor. But rather than a mystical, experimental rock sound, the band infused more blues, rock and Americana into the musical soundscape and the producers accentuated this new direction with seamless production and a killer rhythm section sound. This was a rock album like one would here from The Who, with both stark, in your face drums and bass as well as lush, orchestral sounds filling every groove. It is hard not to here the influence of British and American blues, the works of Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and the aforementioned The Who. Though poets would marvel at amber waves of grain, purple mountains and snow covered peeks, America also has large desert areas that expand beyond the reach of even the keenest eye. This wonderful dichotomy of a nation blessed with a rich bounty and a desolate heart at times served as a perfect image for the albums message. In fact, the working title for the album was Two Americas. Although at times Bonos scathing diatribes sound a bit simplistic, there is never a point when the listener doesnt fully believe Bono and the band is not madly in love with the country. One last little tidbit of information that I believe impacts the album and why side two does not live up to the awesome presence of side one. Steve Lillywhite, who had worked with the band since their earliest days was asked to have his wife set the the song order for the album based on her own personal preference. her only instruction was to start the album with Where the Streets Have No Name and finish it with Mother of the Disappeared. the rest was up to her. Ms. Lillywhite and I must share the exact same feelings for each songs, as the finest songs clearly grace the first side. If those songs were placed thoughout the whoe project one might wonder if the reception for the album would be any different. Where the Streets Have No Name kicks off the album and, for me at least, is the closes to anything from The Unforgettable Fire. The long atmospheric introduction gives way to patented Edge delay effect guitar riff that would define U2s sound for its entire lifetime. The song would earn the band a Grammy for Best Rock Performance and remain a staple for 25 years live. Special consideration should be given to the bass and drum sounds that drive this song. It is with the lead track that a constant theme that will throughout of doubt and faith holding hands begins. Some have surmised the song is looking at heaven as the residence of those unnamed streets, while others note the longing and doubting expression that accompany the lyrics. In Ireland ones religious affiliation could be determined by the street one lived one, but in heaven there will be no street names; no denomination or affiliations allowed. These spiritual

themes will not end here and will serve as a juxtaposition against the politically tinged songs that also reveal a sense of doubt in the Cold war period. I Still Havent Found What Im Looking For remains my personal favorite Bono vocal. Using is open throat-ed Gospel best, the use of a backing choir behind Bono gives the song a truly American Gospel feel. The constant refrain of doubt is tempered by some of Bonos finest lyrics when he gives witness to his faith using the imagery of the cross and Second Coming. The doubt, when laid against the more affirmative faith statements, makes one believe what Bono hasnt found is the revealed promises of a Kingdom Come here on Earth and the peace promised with the Gospel progression. Oddly enough, as a Postmillennialist, I find the song amazingly comforting in that Bono recognizes the Gospel victory is more than just a Heavenly event; in that I am in agreement with Bono. Bono has admitted in interviews that the year of recording was one of the most difficult of his entire life. Not only was the album a long and difficult process, the fear associated with high expectation and the strees combined to create a rift in his marriage. With or Without You reveals a man in love and struggling with it. One of the great mysteries on the album is how these brooding songs with minimal hooks just completely envelope the listener and became monster hits. The first real rocker is Bullet the Blue Sky, which would later be covered by P.O.D. The songs possesses some of the edges most aggressive guitar work ever recorded. the drums and bass are just pounding like the sound of enemies at war with tanks and artillery. The edges guitar work is that of sonic airplane fighters with bombs in tow. Written after a visit to San Salvador, the band was gripped with the fear and pain of those caught in the bloody effects of war. there is both anger and compassion here. yet in the midst Bono adds a spiritual connection borrowing from the Biblical story of Jacob wrestling an angel. Bono uses it here like that of the David and Goliath where the underdogs resistance eventually leads to its victory. The band may have written a more beautiful melody than the one that accompanies Running to Stand Still, but I cannot think of one. The great irony of placing such a beautiful melody behind the story of heroin addiction is both brilliant and obvious. The song sounds like something David Crowder would rip off for a worship song, but here we have a couple so possessed by their addition that everything is lost and redemption never found. Red Hill Mining Town is like something from Bruce Springsteens Born in the USA without the political grandstanding. Inspired by a strike in a UK mining town, the song reveals the impacts (personally, financially, emotionally and spiritually) of a strike on the people involved. The need for love to overcome and represented as the last thing to hold on to when all is lost may also point to his troubled marriage at the time. It should be noted here that Bono sings more passionately without screaming than on any other U2 project. described as more open throat than previous releases, Bono became a better vocalist on this album. The most obviously America focused song is In Gods Country. The song also reminds me the most of anything from the bands first three projects. the guitar sound employed is not far from what was heard on War. This hate/love affair the band always has had with America is played

most personally here. There is real conflict here. America provides liberty, safety and freedom, yet her greatest asset is gold (money). The greed mixed with her love and offer of freedom appears to conflict, especially for those looking from the outside. The American blues influence is front and center with Trip Through Your Wires. I also refer to it as the forgotten song. When I reflect on the album, it is the one i remember the least. It, at least to me, sounds like something that would have fit on Rattle and Hum. It is a real blues song, complete with a rocking harmonica solo. Lyrically it seems Bono is merging is love/hate relationship with America with his struggling marriage. yet, at the same time, there is a real sense of a spiritual longing and realization of his relationship with God as the one who provides in the midst of the struggle. One Tree Hill follows with a sound completely different from the previous song, sounding more like what appeared on side one. But it is also where the album hits its only really flat moments. Not a bad song (or group of songs) but just not as overwhelming as the first seven or so. Exit is just an odd tune.From a musical perspective, it doesnt even really start for the first 90 seconds and when it does, it is short lived and intense. Then it disappears again. The story of what I guess is a psychotic killer, the musical backdrops seems a perfect setting. There is a real internal conflict here. The hand that can build can also tear down is the theme and the line that closes the song, and it best represents the bands opinion of the American international policy. the conflict of those outside of American note that the same land that provides more international relief and support during tragedy is also the most expansive military force on the planet. The album closes with the haunting Mothers of the Disappeared. Borrowing its name from a group of women in Salvador that banded together to help find children lost, kidnapped or taken off to war by the local government is difficult and stirring at the same time. it is no wonder the band requested the song close the album, as it appears the most personal and emotive. One feels Bonos pain as he describes the womens feelings and longing wails. There were always problems with the several different releases of the album as far as mixes and mastering, though the 20th Anniversary version is spectacular. Bono actually is said to have gone into an emotional tailspin before the albums release and asked for several re-edits, changes and new mixes. those were denied and the album was released and changed the musical world. It took what many as the best live band on the planet and, for a time, made them the best band on the planet, period! I know many will complain this album should be number one. others will complain it doesnt belong on the list at all (theyre seriously wrong by the way), and the former group may be right. It is really as nearly perfect as an album can get and it is the best the band ever offered. Its sheer honesty and compelling lyrical and musical expressions have never been duplicated by the band and few other artists could ever hope to match it. I have my reasons for its placement as, Im sure, many will their reasons for disagreeing.

2. Only Visiting This Planet Larry Norman

January 9, 2012low5point22 comments

ONLY VISITING THIS PLANET (1972) Larry Norman Prophetscoundrelpoetthiefcomedianclownrock starfallen star A living, breathing contradiction in terms, Larry Norman passed away on February 24th, 2008 at the age of 60. I attended the funeral, arriving late and listening to it from outside the doors of a Church near Salem, Or. * * * * *

Pastor Steve Wilkins spoke of the great Scottish warrior William Wallace several years ago at a conference. In his introductory remarks he noted that we actually know very little historical facts about Wallace and that most of what we believe about Wallace comes from an epic poem by an English Minstrel named Blind Harry a century or two after the death of Wallace. Blind Harrys poem stretches, twists and turn the truth on many occasions as it was compiled through oral traditions in which legends entered and merged, mixed and meshed with historical fact to create the larger than life character portrayed in the movie, Braveheart. And now even centuries later dissecting the truth from the legend and lore has proven to be nearly impossible. But Wilkins argues that there is no real harm in the fabricated additions to the lore and legacy of Wallace, and in fact they play a very important role in actual history. Wilkins explains that it was the legend of Wallace that inspired many Scottish Christians to seek a new land in the Americas and eventually take up arms for the same freedoms they believed and perceived Wallace had fought for many centuries previous. It was not the actual truth that inspired them and carried them through difficult times and decisions, but the legend built upon the truth.

This placement may become the greatest controversy on the list. I assume most will argue this should have been ranked number one. It was number one on the Top 50 list that inspired this countdown. It is number one on many other critics and collaborated Top Album Charts. It is recognized as one of the truly great artistic achievements in CCM history. It, I will agree, is the single most important album in CCM history, and one of the greatest artist achievements any CCM artist has aspired to create. It could be number. Maybe it should be. As stated in a previous post; this has been the death of me. I have decided to keep the vast majority of the Top 50 review in tact here because the album is as important socially and historically as it is musically. Its history and the history of the artist himself is valuable in understanding the release. Larry Norman was born in Corpus Christi, TX but spent most of his formative years in Northern California near or in the Bay Area of San Fransisco. He was introduced to God and the Church early in his life at a Black Pentecostal Church in the neighborhood he grew up in. In his late teens he joined a band called People! out of the Bay Area that took their name on as a response to the common use of animals or insects for rock band names like The Animals, The Beatles and The Byrds. A psychedelic, blues band People! only scored one hit with the song, a cover of the Zombies (which was OK I guess because they used to be people) hit song, I Love You that did crack the Top 20.

The album also contained the song What We Need Is a Lot More of Jesus, and A Lot Less Rock and Roll, which in reality comes off as a parody of mainstream evangelical Church life and thought. There was really nothing very Christian about the song despite its title. This is a bit odd as Norman would later claim that the album was supposed to be named after that song and that the supposed original artwork was changed to just a photo of the band and the title changed to simple. I Love You. Other band members would dispute this claim. This would begin a long list of revisionist history claims by others regarding Normans version of things. People! would record one more album for Capitol Records but Norman will have left previous to its release and end up only appearing one song. Along with the above claim of censorship by Capitol Records, Norman claimed that band members were being forced to embrace Scientology or forced to leave. This too is denied by band members.

The band would reunite 5 years later for a benefit concert at UCLA that would later be released under the name, The Israel Tapes.

Larry would record his first solo album, Upon This Rock, in 1969 for Capitol Records, the same label he claimed censored his work with People! This album is a very Christian album in all respects and would kick off a solo career that would last until his death in 2008. It is as the result of this album that Norman is credited with being the father of Christian Rock. Christian Rock was born! Upon This Rock is considered one of Normans finest works combining both blatantly Christian and evangelical messages as well as social and political commentary. This would remain a constant for Norman, who was the first Christian artists to make very progressive commentary on many issues that would conflict with mainstream Christianity. The album would contain many Norman classics that would endure for decades including You Cant Take Away the Lord, Moses in the Wilderness, Nothing Really Changes and Sweet Sweet Song of Salvation (which would become a youth group and Young Life favorite).Norman was influenced by Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Black Gospel Music and it shows here and on every album that would follow. Also included on this album would be the first version of the song that would define both him and the Jesus Movement for all time, I Wish Wed All Been Ready. The song would be covered an inordinate number of time, not only by other artists but by Norman himself, appearing on more than just a handful of albums that would follow. The Jesus Movement had a focal point of its ministry the idea of the soon coming secret Rapture of the Church. Theologians CI Scofield and Louis Sperry Chafer were primary influences as well as the Latter Rain Movement, a Pentecostal movement that emerge after World War ll that taught that the return of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Charismatic gift experiences would be a sign of the end times. Evangelist and hippie prophet Lonnie Frisbee would also play a major in the burgeoning musical genre. The above coupled with the growing popularity of the unique Dispensational position on eschatology, the Secret Rapture was a major component of the Jesus Music and his rapture-

ready song became the movements anthem. The song would even play a major role in the popular evangelical movie, A Thief In the Night. Normans music and appearance would not play well in mainstream Christian circles that still argued that drums were inherently evil and the use of modern musical styles violated Gods ordinance. there is no doubt there was also a racial component to this issue as well. Normans music was heavily influenced not only by modern folk and rock of the time, but by Black Gospel music as well.

It would be the last nationally distributed album for Norman until the release of Only Visiting This Planet in 1972. In the years in between he would record and release two independent projects called Street Level and Bootleg. Both would feature grainy, underground looking black and white artwork. Both would also be double albums mixing live concert recording, studio demos of previously unreleased songs and future classics. These albums would also reveal the smart and piercing humor Norman would always be noted for. Norman concerts were part rock and roll show, part revival meeting and part stand up comedy. This facet of his life and ministry would be introduced on these two albums. One section from Bootleg in particular really shines as he addressed the National Youth Workers of America Conference introducing Sweet Sweet Song of Salvation. Several songs from the two independent releases would find their way on to what is known as the The Trilogy. The Trilogy of albums include Only Visiting This Planet, So Long Ago the Garden and In Another Land. Though recognized as a trilogy of records Norman only stated that they were informally created to deal with the present, past and future (respectively) with each album focusing on one of those topics.

Norman had left Capitol after Upon This Rock and singed with MGM to release Only Visiting This Planet as well as the following album, 1973s So Long Ago the Garden. On both albums he received production help from George Martin, the famed producer of the The Beatles. Norman stated that he had previously met Paul McCartney and that Paul had tracked him down to talk about his music. This is interesting as we will discuss when we talk about Only Visiting This Planet. The album was decidedly more secular in content than any of Normans other releases. But much of the controversy in Christian circles came from the original cover (pictured above) because many argued the picture of the lion in the field superimposed onto Normans body was an attempt to cover the fact that Norman is naked in the cover as his navel is clearly visible. The later cover (below) would be cropped at a much higher point.

But it is true that the content was not as blatantly spiritual as other Norman releases. This may have caused him to not perform those songs as often in concert, which in turn may have impacted the general longevity of many of the songs. Mus9ically the album was very current for the time and flawlessly produced. Martin brought in the same mellotron keyboard used on the Beatles, Strawberry Fields Forever to use on the song, Lonely By Myself. There is a story that while recording the album in one studio Paul McCartney was in the adjoining studio recording Live and Let Die. The album combined Normans penchant for 60s blues, 50s pop vocals and current social commentary to create a true classic worthy of more attention than it ever really received. Highlights include Fly, Fly, Fly, Be Careful What You Sing, Baroquen Spirits, Nightmare #71 and the haunting beautiful, Shes a Dancer. One interesting note is the cover of

Christmastime. The song originally appeared on Randy Stonehills Born Twice album and is credited as being written by Stonehill. On this album the songwriting credit is given to Norman.

In response to many critics that he had sold out his Gospel message on the previous album, Norman followed up with In Another Land. It would take nearly three years to record and release this album that ranks a VERY close second in the list of great Larry Norman albums. This album would be released on Normans Solid Rock label and receive distribution by Word records in 1975. In Another Land would mark the first nationally distributed Christian album for Norman and would also mark the on again, off again love/hate relationship Norman would have with the Christian music industry and, in turn, the industry would have with him. Consider that despite his in arguable multiple contributions to the industry he was not inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame until 2001. The album was not free of controversy despite its very evangelical content. The first and most obvious issue was the unseemly longhair he sported, which in 1975 was simply unacceptable at the time. The cover also received complaints because Normans thumbs are supposedly switched with the right thumb on the left hand and vice versa, and that, it is claimed, is some sort of Satanic imagery. SERIOUSLY! In Another Land would contain many of Normans classics that would remain favorites for all time. The production is stellar and the use of limited spacing between songs keeps the record moving in non-stop fashion. Highlights would literally include the entire album! But I will note some interesting points. The cover of Stonehills I Love You in a little odd since the only line from Stonehills original from Born Twice is the first line of the song. The Rock That Doesnt Roll continues the theme of Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music and would inspire countless musical defenses of Christian Rock. But rather than being a song about Christian Rock it is simply a play on words to describe Jesus. It is also the song that contains the lyric the album titles is based on. UFO, The Sun Began to Rain, Six Sixty Six, One Way and Hymn to the Last generation would continue Normans popular Second Coming theme complete with Beast, Antichrist and

Rapture.The reworked Why Dont You Look Into Jesus edits out the references to sex and sexually transmitted diseases the original included in 1972. Righteous Rocker #3 is a very short (chorus only) a capella reworking of the song from Only Visiting This Planet. I heard once that a second version was supposedly removed from So Long Ago the Garden. Shot Down would prove to be his defense against detractor who believed he had forsaken the Gospel message on the previous album. The album does credit Dudley on piano and John Michael Talbot on Banjo. But I wanted to note here that much of Norman and even Stonehills early work was greatly enhanced by guitarist Jon Linn. His work is much unheralded and he deserved much more respect. I know little about Jon but did read that he had passed away in the late 80s or early 90s. One last song point out is Song For a Small Circle of Friends. The song is a list of artists the Norman counted as acquaintances and friends. It served as an evangelical call to these musicians. One stinging verse in hindsight is in regards to then good friend Randy Stonehill. As with the previous reviews and those involving Stonehill, I will not dwell on that part of the story. There have been plenty of others that have written extensively on the subject. But I do want to note the opening line of this review and reinforce that those things which have made Norman such an important and lasting figure in Christian music are not only the positives but the negatives as well. His life would be filled with failed marriages and friendships. No artist ever recorded more than two albums with Norman and most left frustrated, jaded and angry. The rift between Stonehill and Norman lasted decades and much has been written on this and a controversial and decidedly one-sided documentary, Fallen Angel has been produced. Anyone with the interest and an internet connection can research the gory details I will avoid here. My point is that his life was both wonderful and tragic and both cannot be denied. This album would prove to be a major influence on many young people and future Christian musicians. The honesty, well produced rock would break down many doors currently boarded shut. Though not a heavy record musically it still contained a serious rock vibe and socially significant content.

The following nationally album is what many, the present writer included, spelled the end or Normans artistic zenith. Something New Under the Son could really be considered a 4th album in the series, but trilogy just sounds more artistically satisfying. Also released on Solid Rock and distributed by Word records, the album would serve as the heaviest of Normans studio releases. This is a blues record through and through. Although recorded in 1977 it would also not see the light of day until 1981. This too would become a common problem of Normans both for himself and for the artists he was associated with, most notable Randy Stonehill and Daniel Amos. It should be noted that there were several releases between In Another Land and Something New but were either generally unavailable (Starstrom), parody albums (Streams of White Light) or live albums (Israel Tapes and Roll Away the Stone). In fact Israel Tapes was recorded several years earlier (1975). Another album was a single that expanded into an album called The Tune. This would also begin a frustrating history of Norman releasing poorly recorded live albums and albums of re-hashed demos, reworked song and compilations under different names. Something New would also mark the end of Normans national distribution agreements and all but one release would be exclusive to Normans Solid Rock or Phydeaux labels, primarily through mail order. I could discuss a majority of those albums but Im not sure wordpress has enough bandwith. Something New is often overlooked and that is a shame. As mentioned above, the album is a lesson in blues writing. Nearly every song would be considered a blues tune and Norman excels here. Born to Be Unlucky just flat-out rocks and Jon Linn gets to show off here. Watch What Youre Doing is hysterical and remained a Norman live favorite for years to come. Linns guitar and Normans harmonica trade-off some amazingly aggressive riffs. Norman, who apparently had a lot of nightmares, recorded three songs with a numbered Nightmare title, but the best one is here. But the song that steals the show is the closing rocking romp, Let The Tape Keep Rolling. Though he would write several songs reinventing his history, this would be the best one and serve as a great lesson in how to write a great rockin blues song! Norman would spend the 1980s releasing two albums a year, though most would be poorly recorded live albums, anthologies and rehashed favorites with different arrangements and differing results in quality. There are a couple albums of note though. Letter of the Law and Labor of Love would both be pretty decent pop rock records and probably deserved some national distribution. These were studio projects that contained several quality Norman tracks. I was able to obtain test pressings of those two albums and convince KYMS to play a few of the songs. they became pretty good hits and I contacted Larry to carry them at my store. Eventually a few independent distribution companies picked up the albums. Several of those songs would eventually be released on the album Quiet Night under the name Larry Norman and the Young Lions. One stand out is a cover of the late Tom Howards Shine Your Light.

Two last albums I wanted to point out are Home at Last and Stranded in Babylon. The first album was originally released by Norman as double album, but the Benson Company worked out a deal to create of single album release of what was felt were the best songs. This would mark the first time in a decade that Normans music would receive national distribution from a major Christian Record company. It would also mark the first album of primarily all new material during that same time period. It was also one of the first albums to be released on CD. The album would be uneven, but it was hoped that it would bring Norman back into the publics mind. It really never accomplished it as Christian radio was lukewarm and the buyers of Christian music were a whole new generation of people primarily unfamiliar with Norman. Stranded was probably Normans best work after Something New and is worth picking up. Produced by his brother Charly, it marked a return to both social commentary as well as spiritual themes. Most importantly it showed Norman could still write new music that was powerful and compelling and that he could still rock. God Part 3 is worth the price of admission! Lacking any real quality distribution it too went mostly unnoticed. Normans music and ministry would influence probably the widest variety of musicians of any other Christian artists. Fans include the previously mentioned Paul McCartney, Cliff Richard, Van Morrison, John Mellancamp, Pete Townsend, U2, the Pixies and Sarah Brendel. There have been over 300 covers of Normans songs recorded included even by the likes of Sammy Davis Jr. In Christian Music the list of artists who are fans would be too long to mention. He influenced everyone from Geoff Moore to DC Talk. There have been two tribute albums to Norman, including a dance remix compilation called Remix This Planet. But that influence ultimately started with Only Visiting This Planet. Recorded for MGMs Verve label, the album would become the most influential Christian album of all time. It served as a lesson in how a Christian can write songs on every possible topic with true humanity all the while expressing the undeniable Biblical truths a Christian possesses. There are songs about lost love, sex, free love, politics, media, culture and theology. George Martin produced the album that was recorded in London at his AIR studios in 1972. It would be, by far, the best produced Christian album for its time and still remains a quality production. Normans voice is at its very best, both his singing and lyrical voice.

The album starts with a song of lost love, Ive Got to Learn to Live Without You. I have always believed that it was Normans attempt at a Top 40 pop song. The honesty and longing in Normans voice makes the song utterly believable. These are theme and thoughts shared by nearly all who have experienced a love gone wrong.Musically it contains a very beautiful string arrangement and a subtle similarity to what The Beatles finished their career with. Today I thought I saw you walking down the street With someone else, I turned my head and faced the wall. I started crying and my heart fell to my feet But when I looked again it wasnt you at all. Whyd you go, baby? I guess you know, Ive got to learn to live without you The Outlaw follows and would become one of the two or three most famous Larry Norman songs even though it would not receive Christian radio airplay until several years later. The story of Jesus as portrayed by an outlaw working on the outside of the established religious community also would speak to Normans own situation. With limited acoustic guitar accompaniment and some keyboards, this song is all about Normans voice and words. some say He was an outlaw that He roamed across the land with a band of unschooled ruffians and a few old fishermen no one knew just where He came from or exactly what Hed done but they said it must be something bad that kept Him on the run

While at a sales conference for The Benson company the sales force was being introduced to music from an upcoming Dana Key (DeGarmo and Key) solo project. One song was going to be a reworking of a DeGarmo and Key song. I commented that having Key re-record a song he had already sung wouldnt sound new to fans and would possibly cause the listener to wonder why Key would need to do a solo album if he was just going to redo previously recorded songs. Actually I said, Whats going on a the record company? You guys running out of songs? But what I really meant was the above. Either way Key went back into the studio and recorded a cover of Normans The Outlaw and it ended up being the biggest hit from that album. For some reason, I never got a thank you letter. Why Dont You Look Into Jesus would be a song that would continue to shock listeners for generations to follow. The blunt discussion included would not even be accepted well today with a more enlightened audience. Labeled vulgar, this ong is the primary reason many stores would never carry the album, even decades later.Driven by an amazing blues vibe the song remains one of Normans finest and on par with the best of Bob Dylan lyrically.

Sipping whiskey from a paper cup, You drown your sorrows till you cant get up, Take a look at what youve done to yourself, Why dont you put the bottle back on she shelf, Yellow fingers from your cigarettes, Your hands are shaking while your body sweats, Why dont you look into Jesus, Hes got the answer. Gonorrhea on Valentines Day, And youre still looking for the perfect lay, You think rock and roll will set you free, Youll be deaf before your thirty three, Shooting junk till your half insane, Broken needle in your purple vein, Why dont you look into Jesus, hes got the answer. Martin had assembled an amazing backing cast and on this song it really shows. Great guitar work drives this tune to a huge finish. And the false ending, instrumental finish just works perfectly. Righteous Rocker #1 also known as Without Love predated Bob Dylans Gotta Serve Somebody by nearly a decade but the similarities are shocking. Country blues riff propel a message of the need for Gods love no matter your personal situation. You can be a righteous rocker, you can be a holy roller You could be most anything, You could be a Leon Russell, or a super muscle, You could be a corporate king, You could be a wealthy man from Texas, or a witch with heavy hexes, But without love, you aint nothing without love Without love you aint nothing, without love. You could be a brilliant surgeon, or a sweet young virgin, or a harlot out to sell, You could learn to play the blues, or be Howard Hughes or the scarlet pimpernel, Or you could be a French provincial midwife, or go from door to door with a death-knife, But without love you aint nothing, without love, Without love you aint nothing, without love. The full length and most recognized version of I Wish Wed All Been Ready closes side one on the album. This post-apocalyptic ballad borrows directly from Matthew 24 and has the obviously distinct Left Behind theology at its core.

a man and wife asleep in bed she hears a noise and turns her head hes gone I wish wed all been ready two men walking up a hill one disappears and ones left standing still I wish wed all been ready theres no time to change your mind the son has come and youve been left behind The song would not only catapult Norman to the forefront of the Jesus Movement (a movement he never claimed nor felt any attachment to), it was featured in the movie A Thief in the Night and has even made its way into many hymnals. In fact, once a month at the Baptist Church I was raised in the would have a Hymn Sing in which congregant could request to sing a favorite hymn. I discovered that the Norman classic was included in the Churches new hymnal and would routinely ask to sing the song. It wasnt long before my raised hand was ignored. Side two kicked off with I Am the Six Oclock News, which served a both an anti-war protest song as well as a critique of the modern media, especially television news broadcast that would routinely edit what would be discussed to meet political agendas. This was years Rush Limbaugh would lodge similar complaints, but from a distinctly different point of view. Im taking pictures of burning houses Colored movies of misery. I see the flash of guns, how red the mud becomes, Ive got a close-up view. Im the six oclock news what can I do? All those kids without shoes what can I do? Military coups what can I do? Im just the six oclock news. The song would fade out with a recording of an airline stewardess giving flight instructions over the roaring of a jet engine. As the roaring engine fades the early quiet strains of an acoustic guitar would fade in. This fed right into one of Normans finest lyrical accomplishments. The Great American Novel is comparable to the best Bob Dylan of Neil Young would write. + This indictment against American politics would not sit well with mainline Christianity that would label him a liberal and communist and place him firmly amongst the atheist hippy left. The song would also feature some of Normans most indicting and creative lyrical content.

I was born and raised an orphan in a land that once was free in a land that poured its love out on the moon and I grew up in the shadows of your silos filled with grain but you never helped to fill my empty spoon The Church in the South that was still holding on to prejudice ways receives a very strong blow from Normans pen a well. Here though he also deals with the long ramifications and the impact on coming generations. you kill a black man at midnight just for talking to your daughter then you make his wife your mistress and you leave her without water and the sheet you wear upon your face is the sheet your children sleep on at every meal you say a prayer you dont believe but still you keep on This was obviously unexpected content from a Christian artists and deemed immoral, unAmerican and clearly unacceptable. Pardon Me follows with the most odd and unique song in Normans catalog. After a string arrangement introduces the song Norman is accompanied by a very simple acoustic guitar. Dark, haunting and sad, the song deals with the understanding of free loves great cost and the moral decision to walk away despite the internal struggle for physical attachment. Close your eyes, and pretend that you are me. See how empty it can be Making love if loves not really there. Watch me go, watch me walk away alone, As your clothing comes undone, And you pull the ribbon from your hair If I Wish Wed All Been Ready is not the most covered Larry Norman song, then most definitely it must be Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music. Normans defense of using contemporary music for the Gospel message. Many readers under 30 may have no idea that using contemporary music was not always acceptable. Norman and other have attributed the quote to Martin Luther though it has never been actually established. This most likely came from possible comment Luther made regarding the use of certain instrumentation in Church music. Luther also said something to the effect that Music is from God and that Satan hates. But applying the actual quote to Luther is dubious.That doesnt change the fact that the song is fun, rollicking rocker with a 50s twist.

They say to cut my hair, theyre driving me insane, I grew it out long to make room for my brain. But sometimes people dont understand, Whats a good boy doing in a rock n roll band? Theres nothing wrong with playing blues licks, But if you got a reason tell me to my face Why should the devil have all the good music. Theres nothing wrong with what I play Cause Jesus is the rock and he rolled my blues away

Interestingly there is a line in the song that appears to be a knock on hymns and the tradition of hymns. Norman would later argue that he loved hymns, especially older hymns with deep theological content, but his complaint more against the modern church music of the time being dry and empty. The album closes with Readers Digest, another lyrically heavy song that pre-dated rap by almost a decade and can be closely compared to Dylans Subterranean Homesick Blues. A fast-moving, groove oriented music serves as a backdrop for Norman to critique everything from the moon landing to The Beatles. Often caustic and humorous there are few sacred cows left standing at the end of the much too short song. Rolling Stones are millionaires, flower children pallbearers, Beatles said All you need is love, and then they broke up. Jimi took an overdose, Janis followed so close, The whole music scene and all the bands are pretty comatose. This time last year, people didnt wanna hear. They looked at Jesus from afar, this year hes a superstar. Dear John, whos more popular now? Ive been listening to some of Pauls new records. Sometimes I think he really is dead. Norman would actually later remove the comments regarding Lennon and McCartney out of respect to the artists and even apologized for including the words originally. The song closes with the lyric in which the album derives its name. You think its such a sad thing when you see a fallen king Then you find out theyre only princes to begin with And everybody has to choose whether they will win or lose Follow God or sing the blues, and who theyre gonna sin with. What a mess the world is in, I wonder who began it. Dont ask me, Im only visiting this planet

Despite the controversy, rejection and vitriol spilled out over this album it has endured and more than one generation has been impressed and blessed by it. As stated above it was important on so many levels that a book would be required to discuss it all. The same can be said for Larry Norman himself. Perhaps someday, like William Wallace, the legend will supersede the history and what is important will not be the failed marriages, failed friendship and finances, but rather the legend that will inspire future generation to create art as honestly, profoundly and professionally as is found on Only Visiting This Planet.

1. The 77s The 77s


January 9, 2012low5point60 comments

THE 77s (1987) The 77s Released within a few weeks of U2s The Joshua tree on the exact same label, this album was supposed to make a rock stars out the band and make Christian Musics finest rock band a household name. The Joshua Tree caught fire, became the biggest thing in the labels history and The 77s became cut out bin material in the mind of the label. Though nestled within the grooves of this masterpiece in the finest collection of rock songs Christian Music has ever produced. there is such diversity, creativity and originality that it stands beyond the test of time and continues to deliver the finest listening experience by a Christian band. I have spent countless reviews discussing the fact that Michael Roe is one of the greatest treasures in Christian Music. There may be better songwriters (Terry Scott Taylor, Mark Heard) better guitarists (Phil Keaggy?) and better live performers (Bono?), but none that have the hat

tricks of being amongst the very best in all categories. Roe would clearly rank amongst the best in every measurable category and on the self0titled third release it came together in abrilliant fashion. the album also features what I believe is, by far, the finest line-up the band ever compiled. Their extensive live performances at the time allowed them to fine tune some amazing rock chops and work through the songs included on this project so that the album feels very live and frenetic while polished and perfect. Roes collection of songs here combines the finest in selfindulgent experimentation and finely and perfectly crafted pop tunes in a rock setting. There is literally not a single blemish and every song is brilliant unto itself, despite the variety and limitless risks taken on several cuts. This combination of radio friendly pop rock, acoustic tinged Americana and experimental rock and blues is appealing to both critic and fan alike. That is a truly rare combination. I have dealt in detail with the history of the band in other reviews and wont do so here. This is all about the album. I am going to guess Roe will read the review (like he did of previous ones) and tell me I am wrong about several opinions expressed. Oh well If any complaint can be made about the album it is that it is too short. Recorded at a time when vinyl and cassette were still the primary formats, the length of an album was always an issue. Later releases would offer songs left off this amazing project and would prove to be worthy of inclusions of their own. The album starts with what should have been a number one rock radio hit, Do It For Love. This inspiring and inspired rock song contains the bands finest and most memorable hook to that point and would offset an album filled with regret, misery, loss and confusion. But what a brilliant way to kick of such an album, with a joyous song revealing in love and experience, both emotional and spiritual. The rollicking 60s influence guitar sound would be repeated elsewhere on the project, but here it sounds so fresh and different, which set against the backdrop of the rest of the music scene at the time. After such a joyous introduction, Roes reflections of love turn darker and more internal. I Cant get Over It deals with the reality of how ones own selfish decision to not forgive leaves true love behind and replaces it with regret and bitterness. Roes self-realization is haunting as everyone has seen someone they love throw away something good even though they could have easily saved the situation by being honest and humble. This is a difficult emotion to overcome. Musically, it is still a very hook driven rock song, with some of Aaron Smiths finest drum work; not for its complexity but rather for its sheer power and punch! Roe is never content to let a song rest on its own hook, but rather, he adds such passion and attitude into the performace that it breaks through where other songs would be soon forgotten. The same aggressive rock riff follows with What Was In That Letter. Roes improved songwriting here allows for a double meaning to persists. Whether it is a real letter written from

a lost love or convicting friend, or whether it is Gods letter the Bible, the song message rings true. Roes gruff vocals here stand out against a more rough edged guitar sound in the chorus. What really stands out though is the inclusion of an acoustic piano accompanying the riffing guitar. It gives the song a sound akin top The waterboys or even the Smiths, but with a decidedly heavier sound. A long standing live favorite and utterly brilliant recording performance follows with Pearls Before Swine. Recorded with an as live soundtrack, this aggressively blues rock number shows Roes supremacy as songwriter and rock vocalist. But even more so it is here that the CCM world discovered that Michael roe is clearly one of the great rock guitarists that has ever graced its stage. The whiny and winding riffs just weave in and out and through the listener. the song starts heavy and somehow actually builds and builds. the crescendo is a pure rock orgasm. It is both painful and exhilarating. As Roe moans and then screams the words veil of ashes over and over the song just transcends anything CCM had ever witnessed with the band nearly out of control in some sort of progressive blues experiment. The band Veil of Ashes would take their name from this song. After this the breathless listener is then jolted back to reality with a musical expression utterly and completely different. The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes and the Pride of Life follows with what should have been the biggest hit in the bands history. The Byrds influence is unmistakable with the jangly guitar and lyrical scheme heavily influenced by the legendary band. It should be noted here that there has been some discussion about a potential Top Songs in CCM history blog. Since I would be crazy to attempt such a feat, I will let the cat out of the bag that this song would be my hands down number one. It is about a perfect rock song as has ever been written. the melody is timeless, the performance spot on, and without the aid of long guitar solos or crazy instrumentation, the band simply put together a brilliantly simple song that will remain a true classic. Regret again takes center stage thematically with Frames With a Photograph. The mid-tempo rocker finds Roe in familiar territory and sounds a bit like a handful of songs from All Fall Down. The sense of longing Roe projects is so real and human that nearly all could relate to the message. Again here Roe makes the song more universal by allowing the listener to determine whether the one who can fill the frame is God or another person. This allows for a much more universal expression and a better song overall. Dont Say Goodbye is perfect Roe song. A cool little groove mixed a sultry vocal line that turns quickly rock and roll. Again we find Smiths drum work driving the song onto a different level. Rather than dealing with guilt of loss Roe expresses the frustration of a loved one who selfishly leaves and has yet to find and greener grass despite the promise. Yet there is a longing from Roe for the person to stay. this conflict of frustration and love is again a more universal theme than most CCM bands would ever dare to address. Musically it is not too far removed from Someone New but with a much better guitar riff and solo. A long time favorite has been the melodious Bottom Line. This is all about the groove. Sexy and soulful, the song just pulls the listener in. It is inescapable. The song also contains one of

Roes finest lines with Peace of heart is better than peace of mind. the song never bursts into some sort of rock cliche, but stays true to itsel;f and delivers on content and performance. The album closes with a stream of consciousness experiment acoustic folk rocker called I Could laugh. It is both utterly odd and utterly brilliant at the same time. many have struggled with the unconventional lyrics including lines about having a rocket in my pocket and what will get me off and the way the song just plods along with no hook and even a suitable conclusion. It just is. And it just is brilliant. But the way Roe infuses similar imagery and spins the songs into different directions by using juxtapositions and repeated themes in different settings makes it truly an original. One example of what I mean is Roes use of the word right in back to back lines. in one line it refers to the direction while it later refers to the privilege. he uses homonyms like missed and mist in back to back lines as well. I used to believe the song did not require repeated listens. now I find myself waiting anxiously for the song to start. I grab something new from it during every listen. At nearly 8 minutes and no instrumental break it is a lyrical tour de force and yet there is not a single line worthy of dismissal. And with this epic acoustic ballad or sorts the album comes to end.