The latest part of the ongoing series chronicling, in no particular order, the greatest 1001 recordings made by Christian artists
941. HELEN SHAPIRO - SPRING CAN REALLY HANG YOU UP, 2000. From
the album 'Simply Shapiro', Katalyst.
In the '60s, Helen Shapiro was a British pop star by the tender age of 14 and her husky contralto on perky hits like "Walking Back To Happiness" brought her UK stardom until the Beatles heralded in a new era of pop music. But Helen wasn't finished even when the hits stopped. She investigated her Jewish roots and became a Messianic Christian going on to record a number of gospel projects. But it was when Helen turned to jazz and recording albums of the great American songbook that produced possibly her best music. In 2000 she recorded the song "Spring Can Really Hang You Up", written by Fran Landesman and Tommy Wolf. Helen's version is, to my ears, a minor classic.
942. CROWDER/PASSION - MY VICTORY, 2016. From the various
artists album 'Salvation's Tide Is Rising',
The Passion conferences for young adults, founded by Louie Giglio, have been pivotal in spreading the sounds of modern worship across the worldwide Church and the ministries of worship songsmiths like America's Chris Tomlin and Britain's Matt Redman have benefited hugely from the conferences, recordings and tours. Singer/songwriter David Crowder has in the past embraced such diverse styles as electro and bluegrass but it's his live recording of his powerful song "My Victory" which is a creative and spiritual highpoint for Crowder.
943. DIXIE HUMMINGBIRDS - LOVES ME LIKE A ROCK, 1999.
From the album 'Music In The Air: The 70th Anniversary All Star
Tribute', House Of Blues.
The Dixie Hummingbirds are widely acknowledged as one of the GREAT gospel quartets. In 1999 the music industry acknowledged the veteran group's huge contribution to music history with a 70th anniversary album. It was recorded at the home of the Sound of Philadelphia, Sigma Sound Studio, and a heap of special guests including Isaac Hayes, Stevie Wonder and Mavis Staples came to help them out. Paul Simon also stepped up to the mic to help redo the Simon-penned song "Loves Me Like A Rock" first heard on 'There Goes Rhymin' Simon'. It's an atmospheric and joyful rendition.
944. THOMAS A DORSEY - IF YOU SEE MY SAVIOUR, 1932. From the
various artists album 'Gospel Greats: 60 Legendary Performances',
If you know anything about African-American gospel's rich history, you'll know that Thomas A Dorsey is often credited as the Father of Gospel Music. His compositions like "Precious Lord Take My Hand" were seminal in the music's development. Another of his songs "If You See My Saviour" is pretty well known too though many know it under its other title "I Was Standing By The Bedside Of A Neighbour". It's been recorded by gospel artists both ancient - Mitchell's Christian Singers - and modern - Sweet Honey In The Rock - as well as there being country and bluegrass versions by the likes of Ann Murray and The Cox Family. But it's the rendition by Thomas himself which still connects - a sentimental but quaintly moving plea to be remembered to the Lord when that neighbour gets to Heaven.
945. CRABB FAMILY - PLEASE COME DOWN TO ME, 2001. From the
album 'Living Out The Dream', New Day.
The Crabb Family are a Southern gospel institution originally from Beaver Dam, Kentucky, whose Jason Crabb has gone on to win an Artist Of The Year award at the Dove Awards. In 2001 the Crabb Family, Jason, Adam, Aaron, Terah and Kelly, recorded a song penned by Gerald Crabb, "Please Come Down To Me". It's a beautiful song of repentance.
946. SUSAN ASHTON - MEEKNESS AND MAJESTY, 2005. From the
various artists album 'More... Best Worship Songs Ever',
It took a while for a top rate recording of the beautiful hymn "Meekness And Majesty", written in 1986 by Britain's groundbreaking worship man Graham Kendrick, to emerge. But finally one of Nashville's best singers, Susan Ashton, recorded a haunting version of the song otherwise known as "This Is Your God". Hundreds of songs have stemmed from Mr Kendrick's prolific pen of course. But this is surely one of his finest.
947. PETER CAMPBELL - THE LIGHT STAYS ON, 1975. From the album
'Of Time And Its Distance', Trinity.
When Jesus music author and researcher Ken Scott wrote about the album 'Of Time And Its Distance' by singer/songwriter Peter Campbell he enthused, "Among the best Australia has to offer." Mr Scott was right. Campbell is a masterly purveyor of folk-tinged music ala Tim Buckley while his song "The Light Stays On" has a dreamy, haunting atmosphere which still casts its spell 41 years on.
948. RAY GRIFF - THAT DOESN'T MEAN (I DON'T LOVE MY
GOD), 1974. From the album 'The Entertainer: Greatest US And Canadian
Hits', Real Gone Music.
Ray Griff was a Canadian-born, USA-based country singer and songwriter who, down the years, penned hits for Faron Young, George Hamilton IV and Wilma Burgess. Some of his own records too were successful and his song "That Doesn't Mean (I Don't Love My God)" made the US country charts. Although some conservative Christians might take issue with the character portrayed in Ray's song and his seemingly low opinion of church attendance, few would argue that this song cleverly highlights the difference between rigid religiosity and the love of God.
949. NOEL RICHARDS - WE WANT TO SEE JESUS LIFTED HIGH, 1994.
From the album 'Warrior', Kingsway Music.
Almost from the moment Britain's worship leader Noel Richards and his then guitarist Doug Horley penned "We Want To See Jesus Lifted High" they must have realised that here was a song that echoed the longings of countless British churchgoers (and when Petra recorded a version, American believers as well). A vision for revival, their song had that most singable (and clappable) of choruses - "We want to see Jesus lifted high/A banner that flies across this land/That all men might see the truth and know/He is the way to Heaven." That's our heart's desire while the middle eight reminds us that the journey to revival may be slow, but it's relentless. "Step-by-step we're moving forward/Little by little, taking ground/Every prayer a powerful weapon/Strongholds come tumbling down and down and down and down."
950. AVALON - TESTIFY TO LOVE, 1997. From the album 'A Maze Of
Slickly produced pop music has always had plenty of critics and the CCM variety has, down the years, been frequently vilified. But in truth harmony vocal groups which began with Southern gospel and found their pop bearings with groups like the Imperials and First Call have long been part of Christian music's heritage. Producer Charlie Peacock understood where Avalon were coming from and with a bunch of top Nashville musicians brought out the group's rich blend of male and female voices. All he needed to score a Christian radio hit was a truly memorable song and he got it in "Testify To Love", an uplifting number penned by Britain's Paul Field and Holland's Ralph van Manen. The rendition by Avalon and Peacock is faultless - as good as Nashville CCM gets.
...to be continued
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The Complete Spirit Of Rock And Soul As So Far Published In Chronological Order
As published in CR1, 1st May 19
Well known American music journalist Dave Marsh has recently had a book of reviews
published by Penguin. It's called The Heart Of Rock And Soul. What you get are Dave's reviews of a thousand and one tracks hyped on the book cover as 'the greatest singles ever made'.
All lovers of pop music should investigate the book. Though there's just a touch of the portentous about some of Dave's writing, and he restricts his choice to successful singles and doesn't comment on the thousands of creatively fine but commercially unsuccessful ones, let alone album tracks, its a fascinating read. But what is sorely missing in Dave's tome, as the author himself admits, is gospel music. "There are no gospel singles in The Heart Of Rock And Soul quite simply because I could find no way of contextualizing them without trivializing them," he writes.
Dave is right in admitting his omission. Like just about every other rock music historian, he has little or no familiarity with the thousands of post-war black gospel records, which not only represent one of the richest veins of music but are also a root source of the rock and roll beat and the southern soul music Dave loves with such passion.