The latest part of the ongoing series chronicling, in no particular order, the greatest 1001 recordings made by Christian artists
961. DAVID DUNN - YELLOW BALLOONS, 2017. From the album
'Yellow Balloons', BEC Recordings.
In 2016 singer/songwriter David Dunn made his way to his hometown of Midland, Texas, where he was going to play a concert. He stopped by his sister's house to visit his two young nieces. Before he left his sister put the younger child down for a nap. She never woke up. The cause of her death was never discovered, leaving the family with broken hearts and a raft of unanswered questions. David channelled his grief into the haunting song "Yellow Balloons". It is a hugely moving song.
962. ALFRED G KARNES - I AM BOUND FOR THE PROMISED LAND, 1927.
From the various artists album 'Kentucky Gospel',
The rural folk music of the Deep South of America was the foundation stone for country music. Amongst the hundreds of practitioners of such music Alfred G Karnes from Kentucky recorded the uplifting hymn "I Am Bound For The Promised Land". Its joyful reflection on the heavenly delights that await believers still hits home 90 years on.
963. SIDEWALK PROPHETS - THE WORDS I WOULD SAY, 2009.
From the album 'These Simple Truths', Fervent.
The pop rock band from Nashville, Sidewalk Prophets, enjoyed a major Christian radio hit in 2009 with this song and the band were subsequently named New Artist Of The Year at the annual Dove Awards. "The Words I Would Say" imagines what the writer would say if a loved one was with him face-to-face. It's crammed with wise counsel. "Never give up hope," "God's hand is on you so don't live in fear," "Be strong in the Lord." A gem of a song from Sidewalk Prophets' David Frey.
964. FIRST CALL - THE FUTURE, 1986. From the album
The group First Call started off as the "first call" for Nashville record producers who wanted classy backing vocals on their records. Then a bold producer recorded them in their own right singing acapella Christmas songs. The album was a smash and First Call - consisting of Marty McCall, Bonnie Keen and Mel Tunney - were clocking up a big string of CCM hits in a wide variety of styles. In 1986 they recorded a brilliant song written by Becky and Geoff Thurman, "The Future", and with a funky production from Keith Thomas it still sounds great today with its telling lyrics, "I may not know what the future holds/But I know who holds the future/I may listen to a thousand tongues/But I only hear one whisper."
965. FIVE SOUL STIRRERS OF HOUSTON - EVERY NEW DAY, 1939. From
the various artists album 'Black Vocal Groups Vol 4',
As all students of gospel music history will tell you, in the '50s the Soul Stirrers had in Sam Cooke one of the greatest lead singers ever. But the history of the Soul Stirrers goes back to pre-war years and when they recorded as the Five Soul Stirrers Of Houston they were already making memorable music, as this track demonstrates.
966. MARTYN LAYZELL - LOST IN WONDER, 2003. From the album
'Lost In Wonder', Survivor.
Before he became a vicar, Martyn Layzell was a worship leader who often led worship at Britain's hugely popular Soul Survivor event. In 2003 he recorded a studio album and this haunting worship song became a much sung item around Britain's churches. Martyn recounted how he came to write the song: "I decided. . .to flick through my lyrics book to see if I could get any inspiration. I find keeping a lyrics book is a great way to combat writer's block. Basically just write down anything that you find striking or inspiring. A line from a film, a dream, a song, whatever. . . Even if it seems unimportant, you never know when it might come in handy. After a few seconds I stumbled across this line, which I had written down some months before: 'You chose the cross with every breath, the perfect life, the perfect death'. To be honest, I can't even remember how that line came to me. I think it was in a worship time whilst I was in the congregation, but it didn't seem particularly fresh - just something in my mind that struck me as interesting so I wrote it down.
"As I started reading over that line and thinking on it, I just
started singing it out on my guitar. I didn't really have a great
revelation for the melody. I guess it just flowed out as I played it
over and over. The chords I happened to be playing at the time seemed
to fit with what I was singing. It also seemed a nice idea to repeat
the line 'You chose the cross', which obviously began to determine
what sort of song it was going to be, but also triggered my thoughts
to Max Lucado's book called He Chose The Nails. Sometimes, that's the
way it works. A line or a phrase leads you further to other sources of
inspiration and so on. This was a helpful resource to stimulate ideas
and a fresh outlook on an old theme. The second part of the first
verse was also inspired by a line that I had written down from an old
hymn: 'For us you wore a crown of thorns/A crown of life for us
securing'. I really liked the double use of the word crown and the
imagery of his crown of thorns being symbolic of the crown of life
that his death and resurrection would purchase for us."
967. STAVESACRE - YOU KNOW HOW IT IS, 1999. From the album
'Speakeasy', Tooth & Nail.
Stavesacre were a band from Orange County, California, and flew the flag for Christian alternative rock for several years and had in lead vocalist Mark Salomon one of the most thought-provoking lyricists on the US scene. Their album 'Speakeasy' has been called by at least one critic "a masterpiece." "You Know How It Is" begins with a surging blast of guitars, moves into a chugging rhythm and then Salomon's eerily haunting vocal which seems to probe the insularity of many churchgoers. "We just want to know what's just outside/These walls are cold from flames that give off only light." Powerful stuff.
968. CHRIS TOMLIN - GOOD GOOD FATHER, 2015. From the
album 'Never Lose Sight', Sixstepsrecords.
Every year or so a worship song emerges from the tens of thousands currently being composed to impact the world Church and become an international best seller. The song "Good Good Father" was written by three members of an Atlanta-based worship collective called Housefires but it took a single of the song by Chris Tomlin to propel the song to international popularity.
969. MARC JAMES - FATHER (SOUND OF RUSHING WATER), 2016. From
the album 'Promise', Independent
Marc James has worked tirelessly on the British scene for many years. His work with the mainstream hard rock trio Verra Cruz has brought him critical acclaim while his recordings with Vineyard UK have shown him to be one of the most powerful voices in modern worship. "Father (Sound Of Rushing Water)" is possibly the singer/guitarist's finest recording.
970. DIXIE HUMMINGBIRDS - IN THE MORNING, 1962. From the album
'In The Morning', Peacock.
In his book The Gospel Sound, Anthony Heilbut describes the recording "In The Morning" by the great quartet the Dixie Hummingbirds with lead singer Ira Tucker perfectly. Heilbut wrote, "'In The Morning' begins where most records end, in mid-climax with Tucker squalling at peak power. Twice he doubles up and syncopates the words 'morningmorning, morningmorning, morningin the morning,' achieving rhythmic effects from the consonant interplay. After a shouting ending, 'In the morning when the dark clouds roll a-' Tucker relaxes into a gentle, low '-way,' at peace with the spirit and himself."
...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.