The latest part of the ongoing series chronicling, in no particular order, the greatest 1001 recordings made by Christian artists
Continued from page 7
70. MALCOLM AND ALWYN - FOOLS WISDOM, 1972. From the album
'Fools Wisdom', Grapevine.
Malcolm Wild and Alwyn Wall were, of course, founding fathers of Britain's whole Christian music scene so it's fitting they left behind at least one song that truly deserves its classic reputation. A simple song of faith with a hauntingly sad medley sung in neo-Simon and Garfunkel harmonies with minimal acoustic accompaniment. Phil and John did a nice version in the '80s but no one has ever captured the tremulous poignancy of this original.
As published in CR8, 1st October 1991
71. RICK ELIAS AND THE CONFESSIONS - MY CONFESSION OF
LOVE, 1990. From the album 'Rick Elias And The Confessions',
A gnarled and husky voice over an acoustic strum. Then in comes the drums with such power that the woofer in your speakers is under threat. This is rock 'n' roll at its rootsiest and with a lyric which speaks eloquently about the twisted tracks of life without Christ and the stunning surprise when we finally encounter the God who is love, this track, indeed the whole album, is one of the finest recording debuts ever committed to tape.
72. MAHALIA JACKSON - MOVE ON UP A LITTLE HIGHER, 1947. From
the album 'Command Performance', Apollo.
History was made with this recording. It became a multi-million seller in the late '40s and paved the way for an illustrious showbiz career which was to establish Mahalia Jackson as the most famous black woman of her age. It also personified all the pain and joy, despair and final triumph found in the human spirit. Mahalia's rich, resonant contralto took an old spiritual anthem and in this primitively recorded yet classically evocative performance raised it to the heights of ecstatic hope for a whole generation. For the black American community Mahalia sounded a clarion call to a people soon to shake off the bondage of repression. For the Christian CD buyer she reminds us of the joy of our inheritance.
73. LARRY NORMAN - WOMAN OF GOD, 1986. From the album
'Rehearsal For Reality', Royal Music.
It appears that wherever Larry goes, Sweden, Australia, you-name-it, he travels with a case full of master tapes. Then at any opportunity he'll pop into the nearest studio, mix something, record something fresh, or overdub something old, and maybe, from time to time, pass out tapes for release, sometimes by 'proper' record companies, sometimes by himself. This discographer's nightmare will probably never be completely unravelled. One of its legacies for any fan approaching Larry's vast output of albums is that some songs have been recorded several different times with decidedly mixed results. This is the version of this wonderful song you want. Beware of imitators. Here the drum sound is monstrous, the harmonies perfect; while the hook ("I'm looking for a woman of God, a woman with a righteous heart") comes from one of most brilliant crafters of pop song contemporary music has produced. The fact that the pop music world doesn't know that shows just how unfair showbiz can be.
74. ONE TO ONE - REUNION OF THE HEART, 1987. From the album
'Run Thru The Wastelands', Edge.
Welshman Mai Pope has written many a good song, from crossover pop to worship chorus, but he's never bettered this one. Several versions have already appeared, the latest on the last Phil And John album but it's this extremely talented duo (now a trio) from Cardiff who put out the original and best one. A song full of bitter sweet poignancy with good harmonies and a deceptively simple synth pop rock arrangement.
75. PAINTED ORANGE - ID VOYAGER, 1990. From the album 'Painted
Starting with a sample from a TV show a voice asks "how old do you think this rock is?" and receives the response back "I'm more interested in the rock of ages" then suddenly we're into a dense surge of rhythm where techno meets acid house. The programming propels it in a turbulent, robotic rush while the droning vocals, though undermixed, give it the crazed, doomy atmosphere of the best techno. Another milestone from America's Christian underground.
76. TWILA PARIS - THE WARRIOR IS A CHILD, 1985. From the album
'The Warrior Is A Child', Milk And Honey.
Of all Christendom's sweet voiced female vocalists, Twila is by far the most talented in that she is a prolific songwriter able to pen moving worship songs and humble pop-gospel ballads seemingly at will. This song was a big Christian radio hit Stateside (and would have been an absolute monster if Amy had sung it) but it's still a delicately pretty song, with an almost Bacharach feel to it, and a lyric which truthfully proclaims the limitations of our spiritual warfare personas sometimes thrust on us by over enthusiastic churches.
77. PASSAGE - HAVE YOU HEARD THE WORD, 1981. From the album
The first gospel album I bought. As an old soul buff I immediately recognised the name Louis Johnson as a bass playing maestro (remember all those Brothers Johnson hits not to mention his sessions for LA's finest) and discovering that he and his wife had put together a contemporary soul-gospel group (during a time when such a move must have seemed really off-the-wall to A&M Records) meant a great deal to me at the time. Sadly the album didn't sell (few Christians ever got to hear about it) even though its best moments, like this wonderful lolloping light funk dancer are quite superb. In his husky voice he asks the listener whether they've yet encountered the Word and then blasts them with the kind of rapid-finger bass solos few, with the exception of Abraham Laboriel, could even contemplate playing.
78. CINDY BAXTER - THE LESSON IS LOVE, 1984. From the various
artists album 'Gospel Cannonball', Maranatha! Music.
For someone who always loved the rich emotional textures and sounds of country music but couldn't take either Nashville showbiz excess or cornball Southern gospel quartets, Maranatha's pioneering country albums of the '80's ('Country Praise', 'God Loves Country Music', 'Down Home Praise') were priceless. 'Gospel Cannonball' was probably the best and this achingly poignant expression of country soul by Cindy Baxter my favourite. A housewife struggles through the hassle of kids-and-husband till she can snatch those few minutes with God and be brought a bit more of his love.
79. CAROLINE BONNETT - DADDY SAYS, 1991. From the album 'Still
I first heard this song three years ago when Caroline performed it at Greenbelt. It stopped me dead in my tracks; it was quite simply the most heart-wrenching song I'd ever heard. Never has a songwriter got inside the mind of the abused child like Caroline. A monumental songwriting feat by the Cobham-based singer/songwriter and when Caroline finally got a chance to commit it to CD she wisely kept it stark, just voice and piano, recording it in one take. Painful yet compelling listening.
80. JESSY DIXON - THROUGH THE BLOOD, 1982. From the album
Jessy Dixon is one of those frustrating artists who despite immense talent has had a spasmodic recording career, and quite a bit of that has been pretty second rate. Yet this 1982 recorded live in concert at the famed Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa does contain this minor classic an exquisite ballad composed by Jessy which he hoarsely sings with aching soulfulness. The occasional interjections by a choir (which contains such gospel luminaries as Danniebelle Hall, Ethel Holloway and Vicki Winans) add to its rich vibrancy as the lyric tells the old, old story in stark imagery.
As published in CR9, 1st December 1991
81. MARY LOVE COMER - COME OUT OF THE SANDBOX, 1988. From the album 'Lay Your Burden Down: The Very Best Of Mary Love Comer, Love.
Back in the '60s when I was a soul boy the credit Mary Love on Modern Records would induce sharp intakes of breath from the soul cognoscente. Soul singer Mary Love never got the Big Break but she had a near perfect soul voice. Now with singer (and soul fan!) much longer in the tooth Mary has married and re-emerged to record some of the most soulful soul-gospel around. This is her piece de resistance, a near perfect arrangement where a funky walking bass, a nagging squeaky little synth riff and a vocal which oozes and purrs deep, deep soul. After a girl chorus sweetly sing "Come on out the sandbox children, God's gonna get in" Mary unpacks it with her opening monologue "I see the world as a sand box, laying round in sweat looking for fulfilment of the senses, it becomes like quicksand, sucks you down until you are spiritually dead." Where did I learn about this classic record? In my Christian bookshop? Flicking through the pages of America's CCM magazine? Nope, a girl I know, not a Christian and living this generation's equivalent of the soul boy life style, turned me onto it. It was big in Britain's underground soul shops and is one of her al! time favourite records. Of such as Mary's self-financed soul gospel single, the seeds of eternity are being sown.
82. VECTOR - MANNEQUIN VIRTUE, 1983. From the album 'Mannequin
There was a collective sigh of relief from rock gospel evangelicals when the 77s and Vector emerged onto the scene. Through the '70s most Christian rock music seemed to be lagging further and further behind what was happening "in the real world" (to use a piece of Greenbeltese), but at last here were bands sufficiently relevant to "radical" (another much loved word) new wave bands which were pop culture's young lions in the post punk age. Vector were hot and this was the hottest, a riff emanating from synth, guitar or something deeply electronic, a drummer who thwacked the kit with an aggression that only comes from youth and a wheezing vocalist who hadn't yet fully developed his Smokey Robinson soul licks but had more raw power than anything out on the Futurist/New Romantic streets. Charlie Peacock didn't officially front Vector for long but most of the musical associations forged in this seminal album last to this day.
83. BUKKA WHITE - I AM IN THE HEAVENLY WAY, 1930.
From the album 'In The Spirit No. 1', OJL.
Booker White (he got dubbed Bukka because some 'race records' couldn't spell Booker back in the 1920s) was one of the great bluesmen, up there with Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson. He also recorded some devastating gospel sides of which this little masterpiece from 1930 was one.