Reviewed by Chris Tozer
Whilst Larry Norman is rightly considered to be the grandfather of Christian rock and roll, Ray Repp can truly be regarded as the founding father of contemporary Christian music as a whole, for he first started composing modern church worship music whilst dear Larry was barely out of short trousers. During the '60s, with his Mass For Young Americans, Repp was the leader of a popular movement that successfully brought acoustic guitars and folk music into the Roman Catholic church. He was also well known as the composer of songs such as "Hear, O Lord", "I Am The Resurrection" and "To Be Alive" - not through airplay or coast-to-coast album promotional tours but because church youth group leaders bought his records and taught the songs to the kids in their charge. Invoking the call of the Second Vatican Council to make the Church relevant to those outside, Repp drew inspiration from Top 40 folk singers of the day like the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul And Mary and many of the songs on this, the first of a two-volume retrospective, were sung widely by young Christians throughout the English speaking world 40 years ago. But, as Dylan took up the mainstream torch from the old folkies, so Repp's influence waned once the worship bands added drums and likewise "went electric". Listening to these earnest, crystal clear recordings enables the listener to see just how far Christians have progressed. Like the Jesus music that followed, these folk songs are largely ignored by today's Church - a mistake in my opinion. To understand where you're going it helps to know where you've come from. So, worship pioneers like Repp deserve to be remembered by the whole Church.
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