Christian record companies come in all shapes and sizes. But few have shown such tenacity to stick it out supporting grassroots CCM as London's PLANKTON RECORDS. Andrew Long investigated.

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Then in 1993 a "chance" conversation between drummer Tim Anderson and Simon Law led to the unearthing of a live session recording from 1972. Producer Nigel Palmer set to work and soon a limited edition CD was released, The Celebration Club Session', a mere 21 years after the recording took place.

The album contains some of Out Of Darkness's best-loved material from the period including "Cocaine" and "Worldpool" and is a perfect showcase for Wray's undeniably Hendrix-like style. It is strictly limited to 1,000 numbered copies and many have been snapped up by the collectors market, but Plankton do have some left.

The history of SAVIOUR MACHINE goes back to 1990 when vocalist Eric Clayton, guitarist Jeff Clayton, bassist Dean Forsyth and drummer Samuel West began to fuse elements of various musical subcultures, progressive rock, classical, gothic, metal, etc to generate a truly original and avant garde musical and visual experience. In 1991 their first demo CD was released, only 1,000 copies were pressed and they have since become extremely collectible. December 1992 saw them sign to Frontline and 'Saviour Machine' was released, but limited to US distribution. In November of 1993 the band undertook a tremendously successful US tour and then began work on 'Saviour Machine II'.

The second album was released in the summer of 1994, but because of financial difficulties at Frontline only 1,000 copies were pressed and marketing was limited. Meanwhile licensing deals had made the first album available in Europe and Japan and several good reviews and interviews began to spark a lot of interest in this exciting outfit. This prompted the band to tour Germany in December of 1994, performing six dates to fans who had travelled from as far afield as Italy, Austria and even Zimbabwe. The phenomenal success of these dates led the Saviour Machine to acquire all rights to the Frontline albums and form MCM, an independent label for their entire product.

In July 1995 MCM released 'Live In Deutschland' on CD and video and a video single of "Love Never Dies" is planned for early 1996. Saviour Machine are currently embarking on a conceptual trilogy of albums entitled 'Legend' and will be touring extensively in Europe during 1996.

MARC CATLEY's relationship with Plankton began in 1984 when, following an appearance on the Fringe, Simon Law approached him with a view to recording. The resulting relationship is still going strong and all of Marc's recordings have been released through Plankton.

Marc is an accomplished guitarist in many styles, notably classical and rock. He works as a guitar tutor and is therefore able to juggle working schedules with recording and gigs. Although constantly limited by budget, Marc has a gift for crafting multi-layered instrumentation with an impressively creative flair, as well as the ability to write a thought-provoking lyric. Much of his satirical work has caused Christian listeners to utter a spiritual "Ouch!" when they recognise themselves being caricatured. His albums have drawn good reviews from both Christian and secular press around the world.

Over the years Marc has recorded solo albums of 'serious' acoustic rock, collaboration albums of progressive rock with Geoff Mann, a handful of albums of satirical and comic material and the debut album from his band Paley's Watch.

Like many other progressive rock acts, Marc has found a wide market in Europe and has made several trips to Holland for the Flevo Festival and other live work. He tells me that he has been very happy over the years with Plankton and finds the support of Simon and Keith invaluable, particularly in the area of marketing and administration. Plans for new albums in '96 are already under way.

Ben is of course the granddaddy of gospel reggae and the Nigerian born veteran has become almost an omnipresent at Greenbelt.

Ben's album releases have been few and far between over the years and he has never really found a label that he can call home. His most recent album release was 'Generation' through Plankton in 1992. Plankton are also now administering Okafor's publishing company Crimson Flame.

Okafor was really the first Christian artist to play reggae in Britain and his 1985 debut, 'Children Of The World', drew him a lot of fans, many of whom have stayed loyal over the years.

Despite his regular Greenbelt appearances, most of Ben's live work is done overseas; recently he has been remixing old material for a possible 'Best Of album. Meanwhile his entire back catalogue is available through Plankton, so if you want to fill in those gaps...

Following the rise and fall of several other bands, Simon Law formed FRESH CLAIM in 1986 with the aim to "communicate realities about life and faith through raw rock music." In the intervening years the line up has changed more often than the cast of Neighbours but Simon's commitment to the vision has continued to grow.

Fresh Claim have always been a workhorse of a band, playing anywhere and everywhere from cathedrals to prisons to schools to church halls and, of course, the Fringe. As well as playing their own brand of blues rock, Fresh Claim are also noted for The Rock Communion, which, as the name suggests, is a rock setting of the Holy Communion from the Church of England's Alternative Service Book. The Rock Communion needs to be seen to be appreciated. At a recent event in Cardiff the service drew the attention of the local TV news team and Simon was seen playing his battered Strat' on the six o'clock news.

Until 1994 Fresh Claim was a four-piece outfit and in 1993 the definitive compilation of their work, 'Outstanding Claims', was released, featuring all of their studio work as well as three previously unreleased tracks. 1995 saw a new, trimmed down three piece line up, with bassist Greg Nash and drummer Matt Wallace bringing much more of a 60s blues feel to the sound in the tradition of Cream, Hendrix and the like.

The subsequent album, 'Broken', is the band's first CD release. "'Broken'," says Simon, "is a statement of God's love in every situation and the Bible has been the major source of inspiration for the lyrics. The songs recorded reflect the recent troubled times in personal relationships as well as the pain of following Jesus in a sick and dangerous world." 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.