The latest part of the ongoing series chronicling the greatest 1001 recordings made by Christian artists
Continued from page 10
110. SUSAN ASHTON - DOWN ON MY KNEES, 1991. From the
album 'Wakened By The Wind', Sparrow.
"Got a witness not too stable/Wouldn't get me very far/Got one hand on the table/One in cookie jar/Got sins that need eviction/From a temple that's a wreck/Got a chain of contradiction/Hanging around my neck." So sings Susan in a tremulous bittersweet vocal of delicious understatement while the acoustic folk-blues arrangement ebbs and flows in surging waves of percussive dynamics. A breathtaking debut.
As published in CR15, 1st June 1993
111. AL GREEN - IN THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS, 1981. From the album 'The Lord Will Make A Way', Myrrh.
Hearing this track for the first time left an indelible mark with me. I was a baby Christian and desperate to find some music to reflect the strange surging fire that had gripped me. I saw this album mentioned in 'Blues And Soul' and having loved all those old Green soul hits, went down to an R&B specialist in Soho and bought an import copy. My search was rewarded with this classic. Over an eccentrically lolloping rhythm track (featuring some great out-of-tune guitar from Moses Dillard), Al purrs, squeals, gasps and soars while that chorus has to be one of the most joyful sounds caught on quarter inch. Maria Muldaur later revived the song, but couldn't recapture the soulful passion of the original.
112. JAMIE OWENS-COLLINS - STRAIGHT AHEAD, 1982. From the
album 'Straight Ahead', Light.
Jamie was one of the pioneers of Jesus music but her light, acoustic music had always been a bit saccharine-sweet for me. This album was the one really successful attempt to contemporise her sound (well, for the year it was recorded anyway) and in many ways was a pioneering album for the way pop-gospel of the Amy Grant mould was developing (though Jamie's 'Straight Ahead' is a different song from this). I love the songwriting craft, the sheer Tightness of the arrangement, the sense of luminous love that Jamie brings to this.
113. ROY ACUFF AND THE SMOKY MOUNTAIN BOYS - THE WRECK ON THE
HIGHWAY, 1942. From the various artists album 'The Golden Age Of
Recorded in 1942 and still able to produce goose pimples. Country and western had always loved lurid narratives of death, but this story in song about discovering blood and wrecked vehicles in a highway motor accident finds its focus in the poignant refrain "but I didn't hear nobody pray." In all the carnage and groans of despair nobody, the singer recounts, thought to pray to God. In the hands of lesser country singers this country evergreen becomes a wallow in maudlin sentimentality. In Mr Acuff's assured hands it is one of the most moving listening experiences in the long history of country music.
114. RUSS TAFF - MEDALS, 1985. From the album 'Medals',
Russ has rather discounted his early pop-gospel albums in favour of his recent discovery of his Southern roots but for me this is still a wheezingly, searingly soulful and impassioned performance as it ebbs and flows in a surge of energy, power chords and orchestrated drama while the lyric is one of the finest ever produced out of Nashville's CCM hit factory.
115. LESLIE PHILLIPS - HOURGLASS, 1985. From the album 'Beyond
Saturday Night', Myrrh.
When Leslie played her first UK gig at Finchley Baptist Church there were less than 50 people in the audience. That night she sang her material from this fine album debut and showed herself to be one of the finest voices in Christian music. This track, despite its slightly routine arrangement, has passion and faith and keeps me returning to it.
116. AMY GRANT - IN A LITTLE WHILE, 1982. From the album 'Age
To Age', Myrrh.
Great pop songs of faith are rare indeed but Amy sang an absolute classic with this simple tale of faith in the banality of modern life. That line about scattering junk mail on the floor is still one of the most memorable in CCM while that bitter/sweet voice has never sounded more poignant.
117. SHATTOCK AND RUST - ELECTION DAY, 1989. From the album
'The Rock Beneath', independent.
Great songs don't need great recording budgets to show their quality. Godfrey Rust is probably best known to Joe Punter as a poet whose book 'Breaking The Chains' was recently in the Christian best sellers. But he's also a consummate lyricist and OK singer in the pop-folk Simon And Garfunkel mould. The song, a so-clever number which uses all the imagery and paraphernalia of a political election to make an incisive spiritual point is an absolute gem. Its astutely crafted lyric shows that all those banal 'Jesus died for me at Calvary' songs circulating around Christendom claiming to be 'biblical' are in fact merely lyrics by people who haven't developed the skills of top quality lyric writing.
118. LCGC - KNOCKIN' ON HEAVEN'S DOOR, 1993. From the album
'Hush And Listen', Permanent.
It's funny, until this album I'd never realised the quality of Bazil Meade's voice, thinking of the man primarily as a choir leader extraordinaire. But here Baz delivers what for me is one of the most thrilling soulful lead vocals I've heard. The song was always a classic; I loved it when Dylan sang it in 'Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid' and when Mike Peters sang it to a rapturous crowd in Greenbelt's Big Top. But it took that element of soul, with Bazil's husky multi-tracked lead teasing the last bit of poignancy out of the melody and the choir coming in with some soulful humming to reduce my knees to jelly.
119. MOLLY O'DAY AND THE CUMBERLAND MOUNTAIN FOLKS - WHEN GOD
COMES AND GATHERS HIS JEWELS, 1946. From the various artists album
'The Golden Age Of Country', Capitol.
What do Prince and Hank Williams have in common? They both wrote superlative gospel songs (eg, Prince's "The Cross", Hank's "Are You Walking And A Talking With The Lord" and this gem) while tragically failing to put their words into action and live the Christian life. This wonderful version was recorded in 1946 but still sparkles with the freshness of an Appalachian mountain stream.
120. OUT OF THE GREY - THREE
BEAUTIFUL WORDS, 1992. From the various artists album 'Coram Deo',
It was Charlie Peacock's superlative 'Coram Deo' praise and worship concept album that convinced me that Christine Dente of Out Of The Grey was more than another good American vocalist, but a great one. Here she sings an exceptionally beautiful song on forgiveness with the simplest of acoustic accompaniments.
As published in CR16, 1st August 1993
121. VEIL OF ASHES - SUICIDE, 1990. From the album 'Pain', Graceland.
Christendom's rad rockers largely missed this wonderful album produced by Adam Again's main man Gene Eugene. A shame as this dark, sombre rock album with a musical approach one part The Alarm, one part The Cult and one part sheer originality, Veil Of Ashes were some band. On this astonishing cut, lead vocalist Sean Doty pours out his soul over a stark, eerie accompaniment. Apparently, Sean lost a friend to suicide and the repeated line "I had a friend" is an unforgettable, sad listening experience.
122. ADRIAN SNELL (with Phil Thomson and Caroline Bonnett) -
BEAUTIFUL, 1993. From the album 'Beautiful...Or What?!',
Well, it had to happen sooner or later, some astute Cross Rhythms reader has sussed that the inclusion of new album tracks in the SORAS listing means that all the 1001 greats aren't written in stone but rather the listing is...er...fluid. Still, that gives me a chance to say to the three Cross Rhythms readers left who aren't utterly sick of me wittering on about "Beautiful", that this is one of the most poignant and artfully crafted marriages of melody, lyric and arrangement you're ever going to hear. Not a Jesus, JESUS, JESUS! song, rather an exquisite, haunting expression, through the images of a tossed and torn rag doll, of the pain and doubt within the human soul when our very right to exist is questioned. And over this haunting song the assurance that in the sight of God his people are of infinite worth and beauty hovers unspoken, unsung but transparent. Adrian, Phil, Caroline et al have created a timeless classic.
123. RAGE OF ANGELS - SOMEBODY'S WATCHING YOU, 1991. From the
album 'Rage Of Angels', Regency.
Vocalist Dan Mariano shrieks, with the rasping rawness of rockdom's Hall Of Fame, the twin lead guitar attack of Greg Kurtzman and Frank DiCostanzo shreds every ear lobe within half a mile and the whole think stays so heavy that you may need a fork lift to get the album onto your record decks. Careering like an out-of-control locomotive it thunders along its track leaving the listener exhilarated and energised. Metal remains a mystery to the uninitiated, a wanton cacophony of non-music, but for those with the metabolism to take their rock neat with no tonic, this is the stuff to bring tears to the eyes and fire to the spirit.