The latest part of the ongoing series chronicling, in no particular order, the greatest 1001 recordings made by Christian artists
Continued from page 6
56. PAUL FIELD - BUILDING BRIDGES, 1983. From the album
'Building Bridges', Myrrh.
"Thief In The Night" is considered Paul's classic but it's this song recorded a couple of years after the popular Nutshell broke up which still produces the goosebumps, a slinky jazz-style harmony verse and a chorus which cracks with percussive anger. If ever Cliff is hard up for a pop gospel song to cut here's a little gem.
57. PHIL KEAGGY - NOBODY'S PLAYGIRL NOW,1984. From the album
'Play Thru Me', Sparrow.
Acknowledging that this man is Christendom's greatest guitarist, I still find my mind wondering whenever somebody plays his albums. Too often Phil's songs seem to my ears half-developed. But this is a beaut. Strong melody and hook with a memorable lyric apparently inspired after Phil had seen an ex-Playboy bunny giving her testimony on US Christian television.
58. YOUTH CHOIR -SOMEONE'S CALLING, 1986. From the album
'Voices In Shadows', Broken.
From the era before they sliced their moniker down to The Choir and upped their personnel to a full band, this was when Derri Daugherty and Steve Hindalong were demonstrating what a guitar and drums duo could do to create some of the eeriest rock ever to emerge from Christendom. Spectacular use of space on the track makes this rocker something special. To those with more AOR tastes it may sound like a partially finished backing track. But for me those ringing guitars and the naggingly repetitive chorus work beautifully. A near perfect piece of 'indie' sounding rock which despite the bigger budgets of later albums, a sound The Choir have never quite recaptured.
59. FRONTLINE - EMMAUS ROAD BLUES, 1982. From the album
Frontline were a short-lived band of Welsh rockers whose lead singer was...wait for it...Ray Bevan. Any Christian music buffs probably associate the Rev. Bevan with a rather glutinous form of MOR and praise music and would be stunned to hear the vibrato-voiced making a very convincing rendition of the blues. What takes this long, moody 12-bar into overdrive is an utterly sublime sax solo. It honks and wheezes like the obscure session muso who blew it realised that this was his one chance for vinyl immortality and he was going for it.
60. JAMES CLEVELAND AND THE ANGELIC CHOIR - PEACE BE STILL,
1962. From the album 'Peace Be Still', Savoy.
In these CD-saturated days of mass black choir albums by the container load, it is hard to remember how dizzyingly exciting the sound of those tumultuous wall-of-sound voices sounded when the fist gospel choir albums emerged in the '60s. This title track from which is no doubt the best selling choir album of all time is a stone classic though. The choir sounds positively delirious while retaining a hard-to-define dignity. The sheer power of the performance utterly transcends the crude turn-on-a-tape-recorder-in-a-church recording. This shattering version of the lovely hymn, overseared by the gravel-voiced Godfather Of Gospel, has never been bettered, (though Vanessa Bell Armstrong came close in the '80s). A black choir masterpiece no less.
As published in CR7, 1st August 1991
61. CHRIS PRINGLE - FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES, 1985.
From the album 'Spirit Of Faith', Myrrh.
Albums where the recording budget is small and the accompaniment consists of synths, drum computer and little else can often be the Aunt Sally of pop music. There's no street cred for the type of music which depends for its appeal on a catchy hook and which strives for the bubbly immediacy of Stock-Aitken-Waterman. The Australian pop-gospel singer succeeded brilliantly with this album, of which this is but one of several songs artfully blending a catchy pop-dance beat and Ms Pringle's pure, pristine pop voice. 999 times out of a thousand, albums such as these never conquer banality, but here the lightest of production touches, sound and neatly-crafted songs ensure enjoyable listening.
62. SPLIT LEVEL - GOD IS, 1986. From the album 'Sons Of
Anybody who's seen Adrian Thompson in full Celtic rock flow will know there was a huge disparity between Split Level's emotion-stirring stage performances of unbridled passion and the anaemic, sterile plod that characterised the 'Sons Of Liberty' album. The one exception was this cut, where an anthemic plea for peace in Northern Ireland is, thanks to a truly hypnotic guitar riff from Adrian and some artful mixing by Neil Costello, elevated to the First Division. The fact that it was tucked away on side two of the album was a crime.
63. THE WINANS - QUESTION IS, 1983. From the album
'Introducing The Winans', Light.
The first song on the first Winans album and the group have never recorded better. In many ways as close to the ethereal sound of doowop as to the declamatory abandon of contemporary soul, the whole thing glides along on a cushion of harmony and some elegant woodwind while Marvin Winans asks the hard questions (Will you do His will? Will you ever leave him? etc) and gets the "yeahs" and "nos" crooned back to him in a shimmering sweep of harmony.
64. DC TALK - NU THANG, 1990. From the album 'Nu Thang',
The lads from Washington deserve their status as Christendom's leading rappers. Here, they show how having two singers-in-tow gives them the chance to develop songs which sustain interest long after many of the rap-and-rhythm gang have palled. Based around the simplest of vocal hooks, "God is doing a new thing," it has an invigorating, happy-go-lucky swing which makes it work even outside the sonic boom of the dance-floor.
65. DANIEL AMOS - ON THE LINE, 1979. From the album
'Horrendous Disc', Solid Rock.
The eccentric aggregations led down the years by a singer, composer and production maestro, Terry Taylor, under the name Daniel Amos (in later years DA and occasionally the Swirling Eddies) have produced some of the cleverest, wittiest and, on occasions, downright weird music in Christendom. A natural cultural eclectic, Mr Taylor seems to absorb musical influences like blotting paper. After a country-rock debut he and his Californian cohorts came heavily under the influence of the Beatles and recorded this album for Larry Norman's Solid Rock, which comes on in Sergeant Pepper orchestra-psychedelic mode yet still retains many of the original production quirks which were to make Terry Taylor such an idiosyncratic talent. This song, a deliciously tuneful little ditty about communicating with God, sounds as fresh as a daisy despite its period charm. It was strange, and sad, that Larry Norman saw fit to bury its release for almost a decade. And even stranger that, when released in the States, it featured a completely different mix and an additional track. Of such things discographic mania is born.
66. DANIEL AMOS - WILLIAM BLAKE, 1985. From the album 'Vox
Of course once synthesizers came in Terry Taylor forgot all about country-rock and Beatles-pastiches. Launching into their truly monumental 'Alarma Chronicles' set of concept albums Daniel Amos provided their loyal fans with some of the strangest, most disturbing yet richly inventive music of the '80s. This truly eerie tribute to the half-mad painter/poet/visionary is utterly compelling. Brooding, spacey music conceived almost on another planet.
67. LITTLE JANICE - SCARRED KNEES, 1966. From the single,
Among the first music I got passionate about was the blues and this down-in-the-alley slice of gutbucket blues-gospel was a favourite of mine for many years before the truth of the gospel wrenched my life around. Little Janice, whoever she was, had a thin, nasal whine of a voice which created an eerie counterbalance to the ramshackle blues band, complete with slightly out-of-tune guitar, which played raw and loose as the sanctified sister proudly proclaimed that her knees were scarred from such lengthy times of prayer. As eerily powerful a testimony of faith as you'll find anywhere.
68. REVEREND MILTON BRUNSON & THE THOMPSON COMMUNITY
SINGERS - REJOICE, 1984. From the album 'It's Gonna Rain',
James Attlee said to me recently that he thought thrash music probably originated in black church as well as all those other forms we all know about. What he meant is, there is no faster tempo music than when a gospel rhythms section gets happy and stampedes into speed-gospel power-blasts. The band do it here, but before that you've got a righteous sister and a full-blooded choir to answer her; picking up doubling the tempo from dirge-like to mid-tempo to fast to furiously frantic to utterly delirious, with the climax consisting of the choir stabbing "Re" and "Joice" into the only available space. Never has black choir music sounded so joyfully abandoned.
69. MORGAN CRYAR - STRENGTH OF THE WEAK, 1986. From the album
'Fuel On The Fire', Star Song.
I thought this US pop-gospeller's first two or three albums were very fine, excellent songs with biting lyrics. Then somehow he seemed to lose his way and his last couple of recordings have been very dull affairs. But back in '86 ol' Morgan was firing on all cylinders and no finer example of his songwriting craft can be found than this moody ballad which, behind a billowing phased-guitar accompaniment, reminds us through stark images from the Scripture that faith is so often linked to human weakness. A classic song.