Mike Rimmer and Tony Cummings have sifted through 1,500 Christian music releases to identify the very best tracks of the year. Here they are, in no particular order.

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

CompassionArt - Come To The Water
From the album 'CompassionArt' (Survivor)
The opening cut for the groundbreaking social justice CompassionArt album seems to bring together a lot of diverse elements into one great song. The opening chorus of the Watoto Children's Choir immediately reminds the listener what the song is all about. Then there's the crunchy guitar riff from Stu G and the dynamic co-vocals of Martin Smith and Chris Tomlin making the whole thing swing along. Of course Kirk Franklin pops up to do what he does best - exhort and pray and the whole thing wraps up with more vocals from the Watoto Children's Choir. A great ear-catching song which in its place acts as an opener for the album but even on its own, there's no doubting the power!
Mike Rimmer
9.97 at Cross Rhythms Direct

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Deitrick Haddon - Go With Me
From the album 'Revealed' (Verity)
Deitrick's rampant eclecticism where the singer/songwriter takes a stab at everything from old school call-and-response church-wreckers to strident rock anthems makes him a difficult artist to pigeonhole. But when he slips into a heavy funk groove like this gem, he is a talent impossible to ignore, his sinuous wheezing voice a perfect topping to a groove funky enough to give Parliament a run for their money plus a bit of 'Thriller'-era Jackson. Dancefloor delicious.
Tony Cummings
9.97 at Cross Rhythms Direct

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Victizzle - I Pray
From the single "I Pray" (Independent)
The debut single "Jam Yourself" certainly drew attention for Victizzle who has quickly established himself as THE producer and artist in London's gospel grime and hip-hop scene. The second single sees him collaborating with Tunday and Simply Andy (both makers of excellent CDs in their own right) and demonstrating what makes Victizzle such a talent. It's as much the memorable hook and the way that he constructs such great grooves as it is the message of the song but when you combine the two together, it's gold! Rumour has it that as well as providing grooves for fellow artists, he's also busy working on his debut album. Personally, I can't wait!
Mike Rimmer

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Lighten Up - Heliluia Sada Gaenge
From the album 'He Reigns' (Independent)
I was always disappointed that the all Asian group Mowglee produced such generic Western pop rock but now the lead singer/composer Marcus Masih with that group has slipped two bhangra-style songs onto the worship album he's released under the Lighten Up moniker. This is the pick of the two, a careering, pulsating piece of bhangra praise where the tablas and guords crackle with all the energy of a Hindi praise party. You may not be able to speak the tongue but you can certainly catch the vibe.
Tony Cummings

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Vlada - Judge Not
From the album 'All About You' (Independent)
Vlada is an independent blue-eyed soul man from Switzerland who is currently resident in the USA. This track is from his debut album and features some of the finest jazz funk musos on the whole US scene namely Abraham Laboriel on bass, Paul Jackson Jr on guitar and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. As you'd imagine, they create a funky but deliciously organic sound! The track itself has a simple message about not judging others but imagine it put to a ferocious groove that Stevie Wonder would be proud of with horns blazing and everything locked tightly down. Swiss gospel funk is clearly a previously unnoticed genre set to catch our attention.
Mike Rimmer

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Donna Summer - Fame (The Game)
From the album 'Crayons' (Burgundy)
The disco diva has returned after years away from the studio with this gem. And if you're looking for truth about our celebrity-obsessed culture sung by a singer who knows what she's talking about, look no further. The bevy of top producers assembled to deliver Donna's comeback have cleverly updated her sound (catch the fragments of rap and the techno squeaks heard here) yet left that delicious voice plenty of space to deliver the infectious chorus with all the style and sass of old. One still hopes that before her retirement Donna will deliver us a full-on gospel set. But for now this powerful declaration that fame makes a fool out of everyone will keep us dancing.
Tony Cummings
11.97 at Cross Rhythms Direct

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Mighty & Seyi - Seek Ye First (5am Remix)
From the single "Seek Ye First" (Breaker Productions)
London-based Mighty & Seyi are a rapper and singer locked together to create hip-hop that is infused with melody. They won the Star Awards in November 2007 and a year later their debut single shows them to be a talented duo bursting with ideas. Message-wise, the song is a hard-hitting plea that for anything to change on the streets, it'll take a generation of kids to choose to seek God before anything else. The remix from Birmingham's Tony Bean is by far the best as it adds fresh funk to the song and gives the single a real lift. The duo is working on their debut album and this delicious taster means that's something to look forward to.
Mike Rimmer

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Natalie Grant - Perfect People
From the album 'Relentless' (Curb)
Natalie Grant, after delivering rather unmemorable early albums, fully deserves her current position as CCM's top female singer and a song like this gem from the pens of Jason Barton, Sam Mizell and Matthew West sounds like a match made in Heaven as it brings out the brittle poignancy of her lower register and the anthemic gospel-tinged power of her upper register on the chorus. Add to a great vocal performance, the simple yet profound lyric ("There's no such thing as perfect people/There's no such thing as a perfect life/So come as you are, broken and scarred.And be amazed and be changed by a perfect God") and you have the perfect Christian radio hit.
Tony Cummings
9.97 at Cross Rhythms Direct

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Sonseed - Jesus Is A Friend Of Mine
From the download album 'First Fruit'
It's funny to think that this is one of the most popular Christian songs in 2008 but it's not been available on CD or MP3. Instead the popularity of the YouTube video from New York band Sonseed has made this a winner. The accompanying video was shot for cable TV in 1980 and is hilarious to see. Nearly 30 years later, this seemed so cheesy that many thought it was a newly recorded spoof. In fact, Sonseed were a Roman Catholic pop rock band from New York trying to communicate in a modern style and using a cod ska groove for the purpose. The lyrics are funny and there can be no argument that this is one of the most memorable songs of the year. You'll be singing along the first time you hear it and then you won't be able to get it out of your head! Forget that many unbelievers laughed uproariously at the video - catchy is catchy.
Mike Rimmer

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

LZ7 - This Little Light
From the mini-album 'Gasoline' (Survivor)
I fell in love with this song from the first moment I heard it! Although Lindz West couldn't explain to me how six people could be on the writing credits for the song, particularly as the vocal hook comes from a decades old Sunday school ditty, it doesn't matter a jot. There's no doubt that grime master Lindz has gone in a more pop direction with the song and yet the infectious catchiness of the track is a winner all the way. It's nag-at-you chorus will not leave your brain once you hear it. It also features the cutest vocal you'll hear all year from Tim & Emma Owen's kid Destiny Owen. This is perfect pop with something positive to say. If there were any justice in the world, this song would be in the charts!
Mike Rimmer
6.00 at Cross Rhythms Direct

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Chasen - Doubt Or Disbelief
From the album 'Shine Through The Stars' (OMG)
In October when I wrote about this three-piece from South Carolina I described them as "a performance orientated rock outfit" but I had not noticed quite how infectious "Doubts Or Disbelief" actually was. Its laid back, acoustic-driven shuffle rhythm is deceptively stripped down while the violins in the background are (thankfully) low in the mix. But over the months as Cross Rhythms radio have continually played that hook sung by Chasen Callahan, "oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, I'm free", all my resistance has been dispelled. A laid back classic.
Tony Cummings
9.97 at Cross Rhythms Direct

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Eternal Sunshine - Beautify Me (D3 Deep Funk Remix)
From the single "Beautify Me" (Independent)
Meshach, Akin and Steve are London-based Eternal Sunshine and this is their debut single. It is available in nine different mixes and if you search around on the net, you'll be able to find it for free. It really is the guys putting their toe in the water and trying to get some attention for what they're doing. It's clubby and it has elements of old school but somehow it really works! With so many different mixes, you'll find something you like. I have chosen the funkiest mix but whichever version you pick, one thing is for sure - this is one uplifting track! Featuring tight vocals and creative grooves, I can't stop playing it!
Mike Rimmer

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Shell - Barbie Girl
From the album 'Have You Heard?' (Authentic)
Putting the tracks from Shell's debut EP 'Made To Be Me' out again as half of this album was a marketing mistake in my view, but no one could argue that the new songs, particularly this gem, are every bit as infectious as "The La La Song", etc, on her debut. Shell manages to take the feather-light teen pop infectiousness of the original TBC group and adds to it a bit of singer/songwriter craft which on a top rate song like this - which nails the modern miss's sad obsessions with super model glamour - is artfully done. The production by Simon Hill and Rob May is poptastic too.
Tony Cummings
9.97 at Cross Rhythms Direct

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Audio 1 - What Is Love
From the single "What Is Love" (Independent)
The secret of performing a good cover version is to do something original with it rather than just copying. Howard Jones had a hit with this in the back end of 1983 and Audio 1 have bravely re-worked it from being a keyboard song to a guitar-driven pop gem. You can't really go wrong with such a hooky song so they've sensibly left the eminence of the chorus well alone but elsewhere in the song they've quickened the pace and given guitars centre stage. And somehow the song itself takes on a fresh spiritual meaning asking the most important question of all!
Mike Rimmer

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Julie Lee - Forgive Yourself
From the mini-album 'Will There Really Be A Morning' (Stillhouse Road)
The Nashville singer/songwriter's exemplary performances at Greenbelt should have prepared me for this gem but it's still one of the few recordings that stops me dead in my tracks whenever I hear it. Julie's voice is eerily other-worldly over the minimalist accompaniment of a tenor banjo, an acoustic guitar, an upright bass and a pining lap steel. If the last instrument suggests country, folk music would be nearer the mark while the tender advice to let go of old sins and memories sung in such a sinuous purr of sincerity is potentially life-changing.
Tony Cummings

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

GoldDigger - Doll Factory
From the EP 'Doll Factory' (Independent)
Under the direction of producer Andy Baker, this female trio have created a perfect pop song that has a relevant message for the celebrity obsessed noughties. "Doll Factory" examines the vacuous nature of the fashion industry that tries to make everyone look the same. Hurrah for clever lyrics, a hooky chorus and a rallying cry for individuality! Sheffield's GoldDigger have a lot to say and a fabulous way of saying it!
Mike Rimmer

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Tenth Avenue North - By Your Side
From the album 'Over And Underneath' (Reunion)
The wistful lilt of lead singer Mike Donehey's vocal carries the intro with just a picked acoustic guitar on the first verse so it has to be a very strong song to keep interest. It is. As the other instruments make their introduction the mood of dreamy reflection becomes one of passionate exultation. It's easy for rockers who like their music at setting 11 to dismiss a pop rock outfit like this new team from Florida but if you're looking for lilting melody and lyrics which aren't couched in obscure metaphor, a song like this will connect. The lyrics may only just stay on the right side of spiritual truism ("I'll be by your side wherever you fall/In the dead of night whenever you call") but when the melody and arrangement is as warm and inviting as this, that's no problem.
Tony Cummings
9.97 at Cross Rhythms Direct

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Lanae' Hale - Alive Again
From the EP 'Lanae' Hale' (Centricity)
I saw Lanae' play a showcase in Nashville this year and this was the first song that she sung. It's a simple song celebrating the fact that God still steps into the lives of ordinary people and changes our hearts. Lanae' celebrates the wonder of it all yet it was her voice as she delivered the song which immediately caught my attention. At turns powerful and soaring and then quiet and gentle, she has this fabulous warble which she brings into the delivery which is almost a yodel! It's most compelling and this song is a winner!
Mike Rimmer

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Andy Hunter - Stars
From the album 'Colour' (Nettwerk)
In view of his success both with dancefloor grooves and film music for Bristol's deejay/producer extraordinaire to cram his album with pounding floor-fillers or music-in-search-of-a-movie. But the always inventive Andy Hunter chose this release to take a more song-orientated approach and hugely impressive it is too. The guest vocalist on this track is Mark Underdown (of mainstream dance team Underdown) and his dry, laconic voice is perfectly suited to the lyrics which describe the orange glow of city streets and the tunnel vision of people who cannot look up and see the starry firmament above their heads. As it builds swirls of neo-classical orchestration swirl around the clicking beat. A delight.
Tony Cummings
9.97 at Cross Rhythms Direct

The 20 Best Tracks Of 2008

Matthew West - All The Broken Pieces
From the album 'Something To Say' (Sparrow)
After a lengthy period as a not particularly indie act this Nashville-based songsmith has hit the CCM big time and with such crafted acoustic-tinged pop as featured on 'Something To Say' few would say his success isn't deserved. This is the album's finest song (oddly tucked away at track 11), a poetic description of a sin-blighted life reassembled by a loving God ("I can take even your greatest mistake/Every scar, every tear, every break/And I can turn it into something more beautiful than you have ever seen"). The chiming production by Ed Cash is exemplary, up there with his great work with Tomlin and Matthews wistful voice intoning the chorus eats into your consciousness.
Tony Cummings
9.97 at Cross Rhythms Direct CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.