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Twenty Great Christian Rock Albums


Andy Whitman
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I certainly don't have much to add at this point. Actually, I am a little overwhelmed (emotionally) at the responses and the nostalgia of this time in my life, specifically in regard to how a lot of these bands affected me.

Dig is a quintessential album for a list like this. If it doesn't fall one everyone's then...well...there are no ramifications except disappointed hearts and frowns.

I would add L.S.U - Shaded Pain and Youth Choir - Shades of Grey (the 5 song release before they became the Choir).

Thanks for bringing up Mad At The World, Stef. Their first album was an excellent addition to the scene, although not ground breaking.

...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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Whoa. Just had this thought: Why is David Eugene Edwards not in this thread anywhere?

speaking of omissions....

I have no idea how Rich Mullins is regarded by folks on this forum - or even how he is regarded in the pantheon of popular Christian music at large:

But A Liturgy, A Legacy & A Ragamuffin Band was a very important record to me. Especially it's first half, which sounded like nothing else I'd heard in the context of contemporary Christian music. At the time, in my early-twenties, my peers in church were getting excited about satellite broadcasts of Steven Curtis Chapman concerts...oof.

But this Rich Mullins - and I knew zip about him before this album - seemed like a very real and (this was, as Andy has noted, an important point) broken human being; who was living in awe and wonder of God. "Awe" and "wonder" were majestically captured in his songwriting on that record.

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smooth.death.take.it.slow, where do you live? I had no idea DEE was touring, and I actually try to keep up.

Thom, I thought about The Choir's earlier stuff, but I think you have to go with Chase The Kangaroo over Shades of Gray. At least once a year I pull out both Circle Slide and Chase The Kangaroo. The first four songs on Kangaroo are just flipping brilliant, and set the standard for every Choir/Hindalong release/production that follows it. Hindalong had obvious fun attacking the drums from a very different perspective, especially evident on "Clouds." Love that beat, and love how it drops out in the middle of the song. Love the old lady singing in front of "A Sad Face." (Wasn't that one of the band member's grandmas or something?) And in regard to "Sad Face," wow, that was a real faith-changer for me. That was one of those moments as a kid where I simply didn't get why they would write such dreary lyrics, but years later I realize how sadness is such an important part of life.

It is worth noting out that many of the albums favored here were produced by Steve Hindalong.

Edited by stef

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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smooth.death.take.it.slow, where do you live? I had no idea DEE was touring, and I actually try to keep up.

I live in upstate SC. Could have seen several of the shows but went with Asheville as the Grey Eagle is a super venue. The dates - ended Sunday - sorry.

Woven Hand

Apr 20 2008--RECORD BAR; Kansas City, MO

Apr 19 2008--VAUDEVILLE MEWS; Des Moines, IA

Apr 17 2008--THE NOTE; Chicago, IL

Apr 16 2008--ART HOSPITAL; Bloomington, IN

Apr 15 2008--GREY EAGLE TAVERN & MUSIC HALL; Asheville, NC

Apr 13 2008--THE POUR HOUSE MUSIC HALL; Raleigh, NC

Apr 12 2008--TASTY WORLD; Athens, GA

Apr 11 2008--PILOT LIGHT; Knoxville, TN

Apr 10 2008--MERCY LOUNGE; Nashville, TN

Apr 09 2008--HI TONE; Memphis, TN

the good news - the fellow travelling with them to sell CD's and shirts told me there will be a full band tour in the fall, with the release of the new record.

- Ward*

*and if I could change my screen name I would - smooth.death seemed like a good idea at the time. I'd just start over but it took me two years to get to 50 posts. Can admin make a switch for me?

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I have no idea how Rich Mullins is regarded by folks on this forum - or even how he is regarded in the pantheon of popular Christian music at large: But A Liturgy, A Legacy & A Ragamuffin Band was a very important record to me.
Me too. For starters, it was a concept album, which for mainstream CCM was pretty unusual, but it also featured consistently good songs (a Mark Heard cover!) and a solid backing group of Nashville session geezers. It was also Reed Arvin's best and least schmaltzy moment as producer IMO, and had a real cinematic feel to it. It's Rich's best album, even though I like the homespun feel of Brother's Keeper better.

One problem I have with any list of "great" albums is that there needs to be context. To me any album labeled "great" should have a certain timeless quality. It should be music that someone who wasn't there at ground zero when it hit, could listen to and appreciate. Liturgy, Legacy WAS a great album at the time. There wasn't really anything in CCM that sounded quite like it. It was "broken", the lyrics pushed the boundaries of what mainstream ccm could talk about, and the music sounded HUGE. Now, 16 years after-the-fact, the whole thing might sound a little Richard Marx-ish or something, which is the main reason why it might not qualify as "great" in my book. Nevertheless that album means a lot to me.

Ditto Steve Taylor's Squint, which at the time was really an amazing record, at least from a production standpoint. Steve's other albums are plagued with some horribly dated synth and drum sounds. The guy gets props for the ambition of trying to make "competitive" commercial albums on a ridiculously shoestring budget, but, i'm sorry, the production just was really amateurish before I Predict. I actually enjoyed Liver quite a bit too, back in the day, at least as a more accurate representation of the goofy, manic energy of Steve's shows.

I second Stef's Soul-Junk shout out. If you can find a copy, Soul-Junk's 1953/1954 (the two albums were released on one CD) is still in my list of top three Christian albums of all time. This captures Glenn right before his leap into the more avant-garde hip hop stuff and features mostly super raw, low-fi garage rawk channeled thru Captain Beefheart. Great guitar, great progressions that jump all over the map ala Zappa and a caterwaul like no other singer ever.

I would put Phil Keaggy's Crimson & Blue up there as well.

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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- Ward*

*and if I could change my screen name I would - smooth.death seemed like a good idea at the time. I'd just start over but it took me two years to get to 50 posts. Can admin make a switch for me?

I had the same issue at one point. I think you just pm Alan. There is also info on this thread.

Your post counts don't start over.

"It is scandalous for Christians to have an imagination starved for God." - Mark Filiatreau

I write occasionally at Unfamiliar Stars.

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Two albums from the old days that have to be on the list:

Larry Norman - Only Visiting This Planet

Randy Stonehill - Welcome to Paradise

Now that that's out of the way, I'll highlight two obscure albums that, sadly, few people have probably ever heard, but each brilliant in its own way:

Randy Matthews - The Edge of Flight

Randy was one of the original Jesus rockers that never got as much publicity as Norman or Stonehill. By the mid-80s he was semi-retired from doing music and had become a spokesman for World Vision. In the early '90s he put out this album on a small indie label, featuring beautiful songs about people: humble preachers, abandoned children, the homeless, and his own father. Each song is filled with compassion and love, and they never fail to touch me.

Chaos is the Poetry - self-titled

A side project for Lanny Cordola in the mid-90s, this was a very intelligent progressive jazzy art-rock project, with lyrics probing the relationship between religion and culture, the effects of racism, and where is God in all this mess? It's like nothing else I've ever heard in CCM.

And since something by Iona has to be on the list as well, I'll nominate Beyond These Shores.

Edited by Crow
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Two albums from the old days that have to be on the list:

Larry Norman - Only Visiting This Planet

Randy Stonehill - Welcome to Paradise

Now that that's out of the way, I'll highlight two obscure albums that, sadly, few people have probably ever heard, but each brilliant in its own way:

Randy Matthews - The Edge of Flight

Randy was one of the original Jesus rockers that never got as much publicity as Norman or Stonehill. By the mid-80s he was semi-retired from doing music and had become a spokesman for World Vision. In the early '90s he put out this album on a small indie label, featuring beautiful songs about people: humble preachers, abandoned children, the homeless, and his own father. Each song is filled with compassion and love, and they never fail to touch me.

Chaos is the Poetry - self-titled

A side project for Lanny Cordola in the mid-90s, this was a very intelligent progressive jazzy art-rock project, with lyrics probing the relationship between religion and culture, the effects of racism, and where is God in all this mess? It's like nothing else I've ever heard in CCM.

And since something by Iona has to be on the list as well, I'll nominate Beyond These Shores.

I would just like to point out that people have now nominated about 80 albums for a Top 20 list. :-)

And that's fine. That's the way these things go. I thought about many of the albums other people have mentioned. They weren't on my Top 20 list for the simple reason that they weren't in my Top 20.

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I realize I might be in the minority here, but certainly Ronnie Martin deserves some praise -- especially if Starflyer 59 gets a nod. I love me some SF59, but noone reinvents himself while still remaining true to his muse like Ronnie. He might not be in the "20 Greatest" pantheon, but someday, history will reveal him to be the mad electronic music genius that he is.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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Randy Matthews - The Edge of Flight

Randy was one of the original Jesus rockers that never got as much publicity as Norman or Stonehill. By the mid-80s he was semi-retired from doing music and had become a spokesman for World Vision. In the early '90s he put out this album on a small indie label, featuring beautiful songs about people: humble preachers, abandoned children, the homeless, and his own father. Each song is filled with compassion and love, and they never fail to touch me.

And now he's a pirate.

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

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It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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(a Mark Heard cover!)

We forgot iDEoLA.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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If we're ordering, the top 5 needs to include at least 2 Rich Mullins albums, an Over the Rhine album, and the Jars of Clay self-titled.

Or are we taking "rock" to mean an actual genre, rather than "Christian music" in general? Guardian - Swing Swang Swung was the only thing in the "Christian rock" subgenre that seems to be represented in this thread that really ever got me excited... but it doesn't seem to have held up well. "Liver" was the only Steve Taylor album I ever heard, but I have a hard time believing any of his studio albums are better.

Edited by theoddone33
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It's funny, in looking at this thread, Christian music has produced some really great stuff. Only thing is it's so packaged and pretty these days that it makes you want to vomit. But in its day, it really did give us some good times.

Maybe it was best when the artists really knew they weren't going to make any money doing it.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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It's funny, in looking at this thread, Christian music has produced some really great stuff. Only thing is it's so packaged and pretty these days that it makes you want to vomit. But in its day, it really did give us some good times.
Great point Stef. My wife and i were just commenting about this last week while watching the Dove Awards on TV-- something we used to do every year when we lived in Nashvegas, but havent done in many moons. If it's possible, I think CCM is actually more repulsive, derivative and cheesy than ever before. I mean, that awards show has always been embarassingly bad, but in the ten years since I last watched it has reached new lows-- and so has the music.

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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If we're ordering, the top 5 needs to include at least 2 Rich Mullins albums, an Over the Rhine album, and the Jars of Clay self-titled.

Uh ... two Rich Mullins albums? How many of the other albums/artists mentioned in this thread have you heard?

I can appreciate that the author of "Awesome God," "Screen Door," and "Sing Your Praise to the Lord" did grow some as a lyricist over his career, managed to steer clear of such cringeworthy banalities on his last couple of albums, and replaced them with some more introspective stuff. Musically, though, I've never heard anything from Mullins that wasn't white bread.

Edited by mrmando

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Just remembered this one: Scaterd Few's Sin Disease.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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  • 1 month later...

Top 20 Christian albums would have to include Larry Norman and Keith Green's work. They were the real pioneers of Christian Rock.

I would also include DC Talk's Jesus Freak. It is probably the biggest Christian Rock album of the last twenty years.

I would also like to second the calls for something by the Lost Dogs. Probably Little Red Riding Hood. I haven't listened to much by the 77s (they're almost impossible to get hold of) but my two favourite tracks of theirs are on their Sticks and Stones album and from what I hear they were just one great U2 album away from worldwide fame.

Edited by karludy
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Top 20 Christian albums would have to include Larry Norman and Keith Green's work. They were the real pioneers of Christian Rock.

I don't think the label "pioneer" applies to anyone who [a] wasn't on the scene by 1971 or didn't innovate, and I wouldn't call most of Keith's music "rock," but whatevah. I think Keith is remembered as much, maybe more so, for his personality and ministry-oriented approach -- i.e., the things he talked about -- as for the actual music, and he might be unique among CCM musicians in that regard. (Maybe he's a pioneer in that sense?)

Here's another list focusing on "classic" albums, posted in response to Andy's. It includes Keith & Larry, but has a few head-scratchers too. Chuck Girard? Servant? Really? No White Horse or Fool's Wisdom? I think this list might reflect how hard it was to get hold of some of the really good stuff back in the day. I can't tell you how many weekends I spent surfing the bins at the Goodwill and all the used record stores in the University District before I found some of the '70s LPs I was after.

Anyway, Andy's list is not meant to be a genre-focused "top 20"; it sounds like a much more personal thing, so there's no requirement for anybody to be on it by virtue of being a "pioneer."

Edited by mrmando

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Just a few points to clarify, mostly to nitpick with Stef.

Mercury > Shawl, by enormous leaps and bounds. It still blows my mind that a Christian band made a record like this -- in 1995.

She's the Queen? I have to go with Gold for SF59. Silver was good, but Gold blew my mind.

Sixpence's self-titled = correct.

Against my better judgment I, too, just might include Jesus Freak on my list. It's not perfect by any means, but it was a really significant cultural moment.

I'd add Poor Old Lu's Sin to my list. I have rarely heard this band mentioned here. They were phenomenal.

1956 is the best Soul-Junk record. I know that 1957- are more "artistic," but I also can't listen to them without having a brain aneurysm.

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Side note: While I don't exactly disagree with any of this, it seems somewhat harsh to assume that sentimentality is necessarily bad. "Sentimentality" is a descriptive term, not first of all an evaluative one, and is not always used pejoratively (nor do I think it should be).

Put another way, I think there is sentimentality that is legitimate, or perhaps we might say judicious and appropriate, as opposed to unrestrained, dishonest, saccharine or other legitimately evaluative and pejorative terms.

When I think of sentimentality I think of Thomas Kincaide. I couldn't tell you off the top of my head what the musical equivalent is.

Much more on "good" and "bad" sentimentalism here.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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Just an FYI for you emusic people, several of Rez's albums are available there, Silence Screams, Innocent Blood, Civil Rites, Reach of Love, Lament, a live album and Ampendectomy. Sadly, nothing earlier available, but at least those of you who wore out your Silence Screams tapes can get it.

"Did you mention, perhaps, what line of industrial lubricants Jesus would have endorsed?"

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Just an FYI for you emusic people, several of Rez's albums are available there, Silence Screams, Innocent Blood, Civil Rites, Reach of Love, Lament, a live album and Ampendectomy. Sadly, nothing earlier available, but at least those of you who wore out your Silence Screams tapes can get it.

That was a nice discovery I made a few months ago myself. They also have the entirety of Jerusalem's catalogue.

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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Stef will mock me for adding this, but his own band, the Miscellaneous, made an album that deserves a fair hearing at least by the august members of this board: Moth And Rust. Sucks that the record label bit the big one shortly after this album was released. It's in my top 10. If you can't find a copy, ask Stef. I'm sure he'll burn you one.

I'll second the Dig recommendation, add my yes to the Steve Taylor - I Predict 1990 nod, shake my head in vigorous accord with the Mercury recommendation (it's lovely, the art that severe tension can produce), throw a little "Career Achievement Award" pitch to Terry Taylor and his various works, especially Darn Floor, Big Bite, and I'd like to add a little plea for Undercover's album Devotion--talk about a paradigm shift for the EXACT SAME lineup that toured Boys And Girls and made Branded.

Soul Junk 1955 is a little too uneven for me. There's a really good album in there, but they left it as a double disc for who knows what reason. 1956 is more mentally accommodating to me. I like 1957 et al, but you have to be in the right mood for them. My wife won't let me play them around the baby.

Also, give Galactic Cowboys-- Space in your Face or King's X --Gretchen Goes to Kansas a consideration.

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Stef will mock me for adding this, but his own band, the Miscellaneous, made an album that deserves a fair hearing at least by the august members of this board: Moth And Rust. Sucks that the record label bit the big one shortly after this album was released. It's in my top 10. If you can't find a copy, ask Stef. I'm sure he'll burn you one.

Wow. I wouldn't ever mock a statement like this. I've listened to the album recently and it brought me to tears.

The problem with the CD is that in the mastering, we somehow lost it. I don't know how it happened. I was in Atalanta for the mastering, and when I heard it, all the way through, it sounded fine. However, upon its release, there were terrible jumps in the sound. Particularly on both of Sooi's songs, which is awful since they were her only two contributions, and maybe the best two songs on the project.

I really thank you for noticing though. We put everything into that recording, and lost everything because of the bad deals behind it.

I love the record, and all of our thoughts behind it. But it somehow ended up falling off of the shelves when Diamante crumbled.

As bad as the mastering turned out, I guess I'm glad the record failed. Still, the sentiments behind the recording were heart-felt, and I'm glad we went there.

I miss my Swedish and Dutch friends, and I pray for them tonight. We had an alliance that was so strong, very loving, and full of grace and peace. I thank God for my time with them.

Thanks for noticing.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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